A systematic assessment of carcinogenicity of chemicals in hydraulic-fracturing fluids and flowback water. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Thousands of chemicals exist in hydraulic-fracturing (HF) fluids and wastewater from unconventional oil gas development. The carcinogenicity of these chemicals in HF fluids and wastewater has never been systematically evaluated. OBJECTIVES: In this study, we assessed the carcinogenicity of 1,173 HF-related chemicals in the HF chemical data from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). METHODS: We linked the HF chemical data with the agent classification data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) at the World Health Organization (WHO) (N=998 chemicals) to evaluate human carcinogenic risk of the chemicals and with the Carcinogenic Potency Database (CPDB) from Toxnet (N=1,534 chemicals) to evaluate potential carcinogenicity of the chemicals. RESULTS: The Chemical Abstract Service Registry Numbers (CASRNs) for chemicals were used for data linkage. Among 1,173 chemicals, 1,039 were identified only in HF fluids, 97 only in wastewater, and 37 in both. Compared with IARC, we found information of 104 chemicals, and 48 of them may have potentially carcinogenic risk to human, among which 14 are definitely carcinogenic, 7 probably carcinogenic, and 27 possibly carcinogenic. Using the CPDB data, it suggests that 66 chemicals are potentially carcinogenic based on rats and mouse models. CONCLUSIONS: Conclusions Our evaluation suggests that exposure to some chemicals in HF fluids and wastewater may increase cancer risk, and the identified chemicals could be selected as the priority list for drinking water exposure assessment or cancer-related health studies.

published proceedings

  • Environ Pollut

altmetric score

  • 2.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Xu, X., Zhang, X., Carrillo, G., Zhong, Y., Kan, H., & Zhang, B.

citation count

  • 8

complete list of authors

  • Xu, Xiaohui||Zhang, Xiao||Carrillo, Genny||Zhong, Yan||Kan, Haidong||Zhang, Bangning

publication date

  • January 2019