The majority of chemicals used for fracking have never been assessed for their long-term impacts on the environment and human health by the national chemical regulator, NICNAS. The NICNAS report on the chemicals used in fracking and their potential risks is due to be finalised in 2015.

Some of the chemicals used in fracking operations are known carcinogens; they include neurotoxins, irritants/sensitisers, reproductive toxins and endocrine disruptors. The contamination risks extend to the production of crops and animals (National Toxics Network, 2011).

According to Dr Theo Colborn, the founder of TEDx, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (Ideas that matter):

Extracting, processing, and burning fossil fuels (natural gas, oil and coal) introduces huge volumes of harmful chemicals into our environment.  These chemicals, and the tens of thousands of chemical products synthesized from them, are now present in every environment on earth, including the womb.  Extremely low concentrations of many chemicals can damage the endocrine system of our bodies by interfering with the intricate, delicate network of natural chemical interactions critical to healthy development and normal function. Read More

In addition to the list below, the Health and Environment Database lists hundreds of chemicals and their health effects on humans and the environment.


2-butoxyethanol is easily absorbed by the human body and is particularly toxic to red blood cells. Exposure can occur through inhalation, ingestion, skin absorption, and eye or skin contact, causing damage to the spleen, liver and bone marrow and carries the risk of haemolysis. Chronic haemolysis places continuous strain on vital organs, particularly the liver; kidneys; and heart, which increases the risk of serious and life-threatening complications such as deep vein thrombosis, liver and/or kidney failure, heart attack and stroke.


1107-21-1 Ethylene glycol

Exposure to ethylene glycol can cause nausea and vomiting, eye, skin, respiratory and digestive tract irritation, kidney damage, cardiac disturbance and can affect the central nervous system. This substance has caused adverse reproductive and foetal effects in animals. Inhalation may cause respiratory tract irritation. Heated or misted substance may cause headache, irregular eye movements, and possible coma. If ingested, toxicity follows 3-stage progression:

  • Central nervous system effects including paralysis of eye muscles, convulsions, and coma. Metabolic acidosis and cerebral swelling may also occur
  • Affects cardiopulmonary system with symptoms of hypertension, rapid heartbeat, and possible cardiac failure
  • Severe kidney abnormalities, including possible renal failure.



Nitrogen displaces oxygen, making the atmosphere hazardous to humans. Breathing an oxygen deficient atmosphere can have serious and immediate effects, including unconsciousness after only one or two breaths. The exposed person has no warning and cannot sense oxygen levels are too low.