Can exposure to fracking chemicals cause male sterility?
Oil and natural gas operations have been shown to contaminate surface and ground water with endocrine-disrupting chemicals. In the current study, we fill several gaps in our understanding of the potential environmental impacts related to this process. We measured the endocrine-disrupting activities of 24 chemicals used and/or produced by oil and gas operations for five nuclear receptors using a reporter gene assay in human endometrial cancer cells. We also quantified the concentration of 16 of these chemicals in oil and gas wastewater samples. Finally, we assessed reproductive and developmental outcomes in male C57BL/6J mice after the prenatal exposure to a mixture of these chemicals. We found that 23 commonly used oil and natural gas operation chemicals can activate or inhibit the estrogen, androgen, glucocorticoid, progesterone, and/or thyroid receptors, and mixtures of these chemicals can behave synergistically, additively, or antagonistically in vitro. Prenatal exposure to a mixture of 23 oil and gas operation chemicals at 3, 30, and 300 μ g/kg · d caused decreased sperm counts and increased testes, body, heart, and thymus weights and increased serum T in male mice, suggesting multiple organ system impacts. Our results suggest possible adverse developmental and reproductive health outcomes in humans and animals exposed to potential environmentally relevant levels of oil and gas operation chemicals.