Oil‚ gas ... and lots of fat: How fracking could fuel lardiness

21 June 2018 - 09:03 By Dave Chambers
File photo.
File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

Fracking could make you fat. Mouse cells exposed to fracking chemicals and wastewater in a laboratory increased in size and number‚ scientists said on Thursday.

“We saw significant fat cell proliferation and lipid accumulation‚ even when wastewater samples were diluted 1‚000-fold from their raw state and when wastewater-affected surface water samples were diluted 25-fold‚" said Chris Kassotis‚ of Duke University in North Carolina, US.

Previous studies by Kassotis and his colleagues have shown that rodents exposed during gestation to a mix of 23 fracking chemicals were more likely to experience metabolic‚ reproductive and developmental health problems‚ including increased weight gain.

Publishing his findings in the journal Science of the Total Environment‚ Kassotis said further research was needed to assess whether similar effects occur in humans or animals who drink or come into physical contact with affected surface water outside the laboratory.

More than 1‚000 chemicals are used in the US for hydraulic fracturing‚ a method of extracting gas and oil from rock that is also proposed for the Karoo.

Kassotis and colleagues collected samples of fracking wastewater and wastewater-contaminated surface water in Colorado and West Virginia.

Mouse cells were exposed to the fluids at varying concentrations or dilutions‚ and researchers measured fat cell development. They performed similar tests exposing cell models to a mix of 23 fracking chemicals.

Other cells were exposed to rosiglitazone‚ a pharmaceutical that activates fat cells and causes weight gain in humans.

The 23-chemical mix induced about 60% as much fat accumulation as the pharmaceutical; the diluted wastewater samples induced about 80%; and the diluted surface water samples induced about 40%.

In all three cases‚ the fracking solutions caused the development of far more fat cells than rosiglitazone.