Systematic review of the association between oil and natural gas extraction processes and human reproduction

A systematic review of oil and natural gas extraction and human reproduction integrating the evidence for effects on preterm birth, miscarriage, birth defects, semen quality, and prostate cancer, among others.

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Volume 106, Issue 4, Pages 795-819


Victoria D. Balise, B.S., Chun-Xia Meng, M.D., Ph.D., Jennifer N. Cornelius-Green, M.S., Christopher D. Kassotis, Ph.D., Rana Kennedy, B.S., Susan C. Nagel, Ph.D.


This systematic review identified 45 original published research articles related to oil and gas extraction activities and human reproductive endpoints. Reproductive outcomes were categorized as [1] birth outcomes associated with maternal exposure, [2] semen quality, fertility, and birth outcomes associated with adult paternal exposure, [3] reproductive cancers, and [4] disruption of human sex steroid hormone receptors. The results indicate there is moderate evidence for an increased risk of preterm birth, miscarriage, birth defects, decreased semen quality, and prostate cancer. The quality of the evidence is low and/or inadequate for stillbirth, sex ratio, and birth outcomes associated with paternal exposure, and testicular cancer, female reproductive tract cancers, and breast cancer, and the evidence is inconsistent for an increased risk of low birth weight; therefore, no conclusions can be drawn for these health effects. There is ample evidence for disruption of the estrogen, androgen, and progesterone receptors by oil and gas chemicals, which provides a mechanistic rationale for how exposure to oil and gas activities may increase the health risks we have outlined. The results from this systematic review suggest there is a negative impact on human reproduction from exposure to oil and gas activities. Many of the 45 studies reviewed identified potential human health effects. Most of these studies focused on conventional oil and gas activities. Few studies have been conducted to evaluate the impact of unconventional oil and gas operations on human health. The impact of unconventional oil and gas activities may be greater than that of conventional activity, given that unconventional activities employ many of the same approaches and use dozens of known endocrine-disrupting chemicals in hydraulic fracturing.

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Fertility and Sterility

Editorial Office, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility and Sterility® is an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, urologists, basic scientists and others who treat and investigate problems of infertility and human reproductive disorders. The journal publishes juried original scientific articles in clinical and laboratory research relevant to reproductive endocrinology, urology, andrology, physiology, immunology, genetics, contraception, and menopause. Fertility and Sterility® encourages and supports meaningful basic and clinical research, and facilitates and promotes excellence in professional education, in the field of reproductive medicine.