While the hazards of fracking to human health are well-documented, first-of-its-kind research from Environmental Health News shows the actual levels of biomarkers for fracking chemicals in the bodies of children living near fracking wells far higher than in the general population. The research fills a gap in the science between the health harms experienced by those living near fracking and the known harms caused by fracking chemicals: whether fracking chemicals were actually in people’s bodies. They are.

Of the southwestern Pennsylvania families who participated in the study, those who lived closer to fracking wells had higher levels of fracking chemicals or their biomarkers than those who lived far away. One nine-year-old boy had biomarkers for toluene, which can damage the nervous system or kidneys, 91 times higher than the average American. Another had biomarkers for ethylbenzene and styrene, 55 times higher than the average American.

Exposure to ethylbenzene and styrene is linked to skin, eye, and respiratory tract irritation, reproductive harm, endocrine disruption, and increased cancer risk. The research is part one of a multi-part series by Environmental Health News exploring the multifaceted “body burden” of fracking. (Environmental Health News; Series overview: Environmental Health News)