Fracking chemicals linked to MS, new study

Fracking, the controversial method of extracting oil and gas from shale, is now linked to multiple sclerosis and other diseases.

Environmentalists have long opposed the process. Now, researchers have established a connection between fracking chemicals and immune system diseases including MS.

The study, “Developmental Exposure to a Mixture of 23 Chemicals Associated With Unconventional Oil and Gas Operations Alters the Immune System of Mice,” was published in the journal Toxicological Sciences.

‘Unconventional oil and gas extraction’ is the formal term for the process that is popularly known as fracking.

In short, the new study in mice suggests that exposure to fracking chemicals during pregnancy may aggravate MS severity and induce an earlier start of symptoms.

frackingFracking involves pumping millions of gallons of chemical-filled water underground to fracture rock and release oil and gas. In fracking-dense areas, as many as 200 chemicals have been identified in groundwater. Studies have described higher rates of asthma attacks and diseases such as acute lymphocytic leukemia among those living in these areas.

Of the fracking chemicals found in groundwater, some could conceivably have come from other sources. However, 23 were recently associated with developmental and reproductive impairments in mice. These chemicals were classified as endocrine disrupters, which means they can interfere with hormones.

Early exposure linked to immune damage

Hormones have a critical affect on the immune system, so scientists in this study evaluated the immune impact of these fracking chemicals. They added chemicals to the drinking water of pregnant mice at levels equivalent to those found in groundwater near fracking areas.

The study’s lead author and chair of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center , Paige Lawrence PhD, said: “Our study reveals that there are links between early life exposure to fracking-associated chemicals and damage to the immune system in mice.

“This discovery opens up new avenues of research to identify, and someday prevent, possible adverse health effects in people living near fracking sites.”

Researchers wrote: “These observations suggest that developmental exposure to complex mixtures of water contaminants, such as those derived from UOG operations, could contribute to immune dysregulation and disease later in life.”

The study authors believe that fracking chemicals disrupt cellular pathways which affect the immune system.

They wrote that further research could help to inform biomedical scientists, healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the public on the effects of fracking on health.


Anti-fracking protest in New York, one of many worldwide.

The question I must ask is why oil and gas companies, as well as governments around the world, insist frackng is a good idea. It’s about time that we blocked any process that can inflict harm. If they cannot be proved to be safe, or include steps to eliminate dangers, ban them. We live with enough health risks already.

Do we really need any more? I think not.


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* * * * * is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

Uncertain future of circus animals

Thomas Chipperfield ad Lion

Animal welfare is an issue of some importance. It matters more to some people than others but the elimination of cruelty and mistreatment is important. Where it lies in relation to human rights, domestic violence and cruelty to children is another matter.

But, today, this blog will concentrate purely on animal issues, especially those animals that perform in travelling circuses.

As a young boy, my dad took me to see Chipperfield’s Circus when its tour came to our town. It featured all the usual types of acts including elephants, ponies, lions, clowns and a glamorous female trapeze artist who performed on a single swing. There was no safety net and, several weeks later, she fell to her death.

In those days, no mention of cruelty reached my ears and the show was greatly enjoyed by an appreciative audience – especially the children. How attitudes have changed over the years since then. These days, the number of touring circuses has fallen dramatically and the number of acts involving performing animals even more so.

The training of wild animals to perform unnatural tricks for the entertainment of humans is now generally frowned upon. Over the years, there have been widely-held concerns and a few allegations about training methods; concerns and allegations that have been based on the use of cruel training techniques. Another area that has come under the spotlight is the facility for housing the animals while on tour.

Now, Chipperfield’s is in the news again. In the UK, the country’s last remaining lion tamer has said he’s determined to keep touring in the face of protests from animal rights campaigners and some politicians.

Thomas Chipperfield is from a family that has been running circuses for seven generations; circuses that have included lions and tigers doing tricks on command. However, this past summer, his tour of Wales has been troubled by protesters picketing the venues and, allegedly, intimidating landowners who rent property to the travelling circus. The Welsh Government has also stated that it will investigate whether or not to ban the use of wild animals in circuses.

Mr Chipperfield says his animals are well cared for – and accuses animal rights campaigners of spreading lies. He said: “The opposition to this has existed for a long time but it’s only recently that it’s gained a significant foothold because of misinformation that’s put out and so easily spread. Animal rights groups can send out propaganda to thousands of people based on dated and carefully selected footage which has no relevance to myself.”

His travelling circus, which has two lions and three tigers, passed inspections to operate in Wales but was refused a licence to operate in England this year when the Department or Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said the big cat sleeping area was too small, and recommended it to be enlarged.

In response, Mr Chipperfield has started a crowdfunding campaign to raise the cash needed to build a new enclosure ready for next season.

There are only two other circuses left in the UK that use wild animals and, in 2007, the last major report into animal welfare in the UK found little evidence that the welfare of animals kept in travelling circuses was any better or worse than those in zoos.

Whether you think zoos are a good idea or not is another matter but, except for dolphins and whales, they don’t generally train animals to perform. And, to me, that is the main issue. Hopefully, they are trained with kindness but being expected to perform unnatural tricks for our pleasure has to be wrong.

Circuses can continue with just human acts but, if wild animal acts are banned, what happens to the animals? To be blunt, instead of being assets, they would become costly liabilities. And, in any business, costly liabilities are axed.


Pic: SkyNewsScreenGrab  Thomas Chipperfield face-to-face with lion.