Of mice, cows, men and sperm counts

A report published October 2015 entitled ‘Endocrine-Disrupting Activity of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Adverse Health Outcomes After Prenatal Exposure in Male Mice’, has stated that there is a possible reduction in reproductive health in both humans and livestock as a result of significant exposure to chemicals related to high volume hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as unconventional shale gas extraction (USGE).

One must ask:

‘Can you really take the results of a scientific study involving lab mice, and confidently state that the same results that happened to the mice, are guaranteed to apply cows and humans?’

Well, the answer is no. You can’t, becasue mice, livestock and humans are different species of animal. We have different biological systems from one another. Just because something can negatively affect a mouse, it will not hold as guarantee that it can negatively affect a cow or a human. In other words, just becasue I like eating cheese, it does not hold that I will get caught in a mouse trap. And yet, be it mouse, cow or human, were you to cut off our heads, as organisms, we would all die. So, you do need to be able to investigate what will and won’t affect us in the same manner. In fact, there are parallels to this situation with lab mice and fracking chemicals, and the miners of yester year who brought canaries down the mines with them. The canaries acted as an indicator that there may be risk of harm to human health.

The results form teh paper were taken from experiements run on C57BL/6 Mice (image source: gdmlac.com)
The results from the paper were taken from experiments run on C57BL/6 Mice. For more information on their characteristics, please click the image source link. (image source: gdmlac.com)

Hence, ethically, in relation to fracking chemicals, it is easier to test an experiment out on a mouse, and if there are adverse effects, you can knock on the scientific door that asks if these same harms could affect humans and our agricultural livestock. The study states:

“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.”

In particular, the study:

  • measured the endocrine-disrupting activities of 24 chemicals used and/or produced by oil and gas operations.
  • quantified the concentration of 16 of these chemicals in oil and gas wastewater samples.
  • assessed reproductive and developmental outcomes in male C57BL/6J mice after the prenatal exposure to a mixture of these chemicals.

The study found that 23 of 24 of the oil and gas related chemicals inhibit the estrogen, androgen, glucocorticoid, progesterone, and/or thyroid receptors within the lab mice. For the lab mice, this led to decreased sperm counts and increased testes, body, heart, and thymus weights and increased serum testosterone in male mice. Hence:

23 out of 24 oil and gas related chemicals, when working in concert within their bodies, led to multiple organ system impacts within the lab mice.

Will these results hold true for humans exposed to the same chemicals? Well, the only sure way that we can find out is by running the same experiment on human test subjects. If you thought that laboratory experiments on mice is unethical, then surely you will hold that running laboratory experiments on human test subjects is highly unethical.

What is important to note is that no community should risk exposing local members of their community to the multiple organ system impacts that were found to affect reproductive and biological systems in these lab mice.

It really is for industrial corporations and governments to prove that humans and livestock will not be negatively affected by exposure to these potentially harmful chemicals.

In other words, the precautionary principle must be applied.

If your community is exposed to these chemicals, and the reproductive abilities of local livestock and humans are negatively affected, then you must ask:

  • What do we do to reverse this within the affected individuals?
  • If we can’t reverse the harm done, then what can we actually do?

Humans are not laboratory mice, and we don’t like getting caught in mouse traps. We should investigate the harmful affects of fracking chemicals further, before committing our communities for future generations to a process that may prove harmful to our human health. For, if these negative effects once experienced, cannot be reversed, then we will find ourselves caught in a trap from which we cannot escape.

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Remember: More research must be done to rove that fracking chemicals are safe to human and agricultural health. Communities must demand that the precautionary principle be applied by fracking companies and governments.

Please leave you comments below. Thank you, FFAN.