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Dr. Susan Nagel seeks crowdfunding to explore link between fracking and endocrine disruptors

March 28, 2014

Colorado River

Susan Nagel, PhD, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health at the MU School of Medicine, wants to know if hydraulic fracturing is contaminating water with chemicals that disrupt hormones. She has a research project that can provide the answer, but she needs funds to support it. Funding requests to federal agencies can take years, so she’s turned to the public using a website designed specifically to crowd-fund science research.

“There is a dramatic increase in hydraulic fracturing, and many people are very concerned about the potential health impacts,” said Nagel, who is also adjunct associate professor in the Division of Biological Sciences. “Crowd-funding provides an excellent opportunity for concerned citizens to get involved in a scientific project designed to test if our natural water sources are being contaminated with harmful chemicals from this process.”

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves injecting millions of gallons of chemical-laced water and sand deep underground to crack shale formations and unlock oil and gas. A little over a third of the chemicals used are known endocrine disruptors, which means they have the ability to interfere with normal hormone action in humans and are thus a health concern.

A recent study led by Nagel and published in the journal Endocrinology found elevated levels of endocrine disrupting activity in surface water and groundwater samples collected near natural gas drilling dense areas in Garfield County, Colorado. According to Nagel, more research needs to be conducted to examine this association, which is where this new project comes in.

“Funds from this project will be used for the next phase—a comprehensive analysis of water in natural gas drilling dense areas,” said Nagel.

Her goal is to raise $25,000 to collect ground and surface water samples from around hydraulic fracturing drilling sites. The water samples will then be tested for hormone disrupting activity and analyzed for chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.

This crowd-funding project will do more than test her previous findings, said Nagel. It also will help assess the possibility of contamination not only from spills but also from seepage into groundwater.

“It is possible that there is chronic contamination from the ground up as well as from spills at the surface,” she said. “The geochemical profile in some parts of the United states has shown that there is connectivity between the deep shale layers and shallow groundwater and thus it is possible that contamination can occur bottom up as well as top down.”

Susan Nagel

Dr. Susan Nagel is an adjunct associate professor in the Division of Biological Sciences

Nagel listed her project, titled “Does Fracking Contaminate Water with Hormone Disrupting Chemicals?,” on Experiment, a crowd-funding site geared toward academic researchers. The site allows donors to give money to research projects that interest them. Donors, in return, will receive regular updates from Nagel as the project progresses and are able to ask questions.

For more information about the crowd-funding project, visit

For additional information about Dr. Nagel’s project, see Susan Nagel explores links between fracking and endocrine disruption.


Written by Melody Kroll

Related research strengths:
Development, Ecology, Neurobiology