Endocrine-Disrupting Activity of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Adverse Health Outcomes After Prenatal Exposure in Male Mice

Endocrinology. 2015 Dec;156(12):4458-73. doi: 10.1210/en.2015-1375. Epub 2015 Oct 14.


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 μg/kg · d caused decreased sperm counts and increased testes, body, heart, and thymus weights and increased serum testosterone 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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects*
  • Endocrine Disruptors / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Hydraulic Fracking*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Organ Size
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Receptors, Androgen / drug effects
  • Receptors, Estrogen / drug effects
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / drug effects
  • Receptors, Progesterone / drug effects
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone / drug effects
  • Sperm Count
  • Sperm Motility / drug effects
  • Spermatozoa / drug effects*
  • Testis / drug effects*
  • Testis / pathology
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Waste Water / chemistry*


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone
  • Waste Water
  • Testosterone