Fracking is linked to breast cancer, new research suggests.
The chemicals used in the high-pressure extraction of oil and gas cause uncontrolled cell division in adult mice’s mammary cells, a US study found.
Past research shows cancer is caused by uncontrolled cell growth, which results in tumours.
This cell division occurs when mice are exposed to the equivalent level of chemicals found in the drinking water of areas affected by fracking, the research adds.
Fracking is a contentious issue in the UK with campaigners recently announcing they will continue to protest about the proposed operation in Kirby Misperton, North Yorkshire until the energy firm behind it goes bust.
The controversial process involves drilling down into the earth before inserting a high-pressure mixture to release gas and oil trapped in rocks.
Campaigners argue the use of potentially cancer-causing chemicals in fracking may escape and contaminate local water supplies.
The chemicals used in controversial fracking could cause breast cancer, study finds (stock)
WHAT IS FRACKING AND WHY IS IT CONTROVERSIAL?
Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before inserting a high-pressure water mixture to release gas and oil within rocks.
This allows drilling firms to access hard-to-reach gas and oil sources.
Although banned in Scotland, other parts of the UK are expected to legalise fracking in 2018, according to British shale gas companies.
This comes after another year of campaigners protesting with little progress.
Fracking could be introduced to the resource-rich area stretching from Lancashire to Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
Currently, drilling licenses are only issued to select companies.
In the US, fracking has significantly boosted oil production and reduced gas prices.
Fracking is estimated to have offered gas security to the US and Canada for around the next 100 years.
Why is it controversial?
Fracking is controversial due to the potentially cancer-causing chemicals used to extract oil and gas, which could then contaminate local water supplies.
Some also argue, fracking, which requires a huge amount of water, may distract energy firms and the Government from investing in renewable energy sources.
The process has even been linked to the recent rise in earthquakes in Oklahoma as drilling can penetrate rock crisscrossed with tectonic faults, triggering such natural disasters.
Source: BBC and The Guardian
How the research was carried out
Researchers from the University of Massachusetts exposed pregnant mice to one of four doses of 23 chemicals commonly used in fracking.
These chemicals were added to the rodents’ drinking water.
The researchers then analysed the breast tissue of the pups at 21 days old,as well as just before puberty and at 85 days old, which is considered early adulthood in mice.
According to the researchers, the two lowest chemical doses investigated are equivalent to levels found in drinking water from drilled areas.
The highest dose used matches that of chemicals present in industry wastewater.
‘The mammary gland is sensitive to mixtures of chemicals’
Results further reveal exposure to chemicals used in fracking during mice’s gestation does not alter their breast tissue at 21 days old.
Yet, in early adulthood, such rodents experience ‘excessive layers’ of cells that grow at a rapid rate.
The researcher write that their findings ‘suggest the mammary gland is sensitive to mixtures of chemicals used in [fracking] at exposure levels that are environmentally relevant.
‘The effect of these findings on the long-term health of the mammary gland, including its risk of cancer, should be evaluated in future studies.’
The findings were published in the journal Endocrinology.
Fracking has been linked to the increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma in recent years
ANTI-FRACKING CAMPAIGNERS VOW TO REMAIN UNTIL ENERGY FIRM GOES BUST
Anti-fracking campaigners have vowed to protest against the firm Third Energy’s operation near the village of Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire until the company goes bust.
Last year, Third Energy announced plans to conduct frack tests at the site, however, these have been continually delayed by the Government.
In response to news announced on February 6 this year that the firm was removing equipment from the site to be used elsewhere, campaigners said: ‘We would suggest it’s time for Third Energy to pack up and leave completely.’
A statement released by Third Energy said: ‘Given that there will be no hydraulic fracturing operations at the site until final consent is received, we hope that the protesters will also give residents a break from their campaign of disruption and this will enable everyone to resume their normal daily lives and also reduce pressure on North Yorkshire Police.’
Third Energy’s plans are part of efforts by several companies to get fracking in the UK off the ground, amid hopes it will boost the economy, jobs and energy security.
Opponents fear it can cause earthquakes, pollute water and is incompatible with targets to cut use of fossil fuels.
Does fracking cause earthquakes?
Earlier this month, scientists suggested a major trigger of man-made earthquakes rattling Oklahoma is how deep fracking water is injected into the ground.
They analysed more than 10,000 injection wells where 96 billion gallons of fluid are pumped annually.
Oklahoma has suffered from an explosion of damaging earthquakes in recent years, recording as many as 800 3.0 magnitude quakes in 2015, according to the scientists. Such quakes can cause building damage.
Experts determined many years ago that earthquakes may be induced by industrial processes, such as fracking.
According to the study’s lead author Dr Thea Hincks from the University of Bristol, state regulators could cut the number of man-made earthquakes by around half by restricting deep injections in the ground.
The researchers add companies drilling for oil and gas should not inject water within 600-to-1,500 feet (200-to-500 meters) of the geologic basement as this hits hard rock deep underground, which is usually crisscrossed with earthquake faults.
The closer you get to the faults, the more likely you are to trigger them, according to Stanford University geophysicist Matthew Weingarten, who was not involved in the study.