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 Just Accepted

This article has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. It is in production and has not been edited, so may differ from the final published form.

In vitro cytotoxicity assessment of a hydraulic fracturing fluid

Madeleine Payne, Heather Chapman, Janet Cumming, Frederic Leusch


Hydraulic fracturing fluids are chemical mixtures used to enhance oil and gas extraction. There are concerns that fracturing fluids are hazardous and their release into the environment – via direction injection to coal and shale formations or as residue in produced water – may have impacts on ecosystems, water quality and public health. This study aimed to characterise the acute cytotoxicity of a hydraulic fracturing fluid using a human gastrointestinal cell line and, using this data, contribute to the understanding of potential human health risks posed by Coal Seam Gas (CSG) extraction in Queensland, Australia. Previous published research on the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing fluids has been limited to desktop studies of individual chemicals. As such, this study is one of the first attempts to characterise the toxicity of a hydraulic fracturing mixture using laboratory methods. The fracturing fluid was determined to be cytotoxic, with IC50 values across mixture variations ranging between 25 and 51 mM. When used by industry, these fracturing fluids would be at concentrations of over 200 mM prior to injection into the coal seam. A five-fold dilution would be sufficient to reduce the toxicity of the fluids to below the detection limit of the assay. It is unlikely that human exposure would occur at these high (‘prior to use’) concentrations and likely that the fluids would be diluted during use. Thus, it can be inferred that the level of acute risk to human health associated with the use of these fracturing fluids is low. However, a thorough exposure assessment and additional chronic and/or targeted toxicity assessments are required to expand upon this conclusionconclusively determine human health risks.

EN14010  Accepted 15 April 2014
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