Malignant human cell transformation of Marcellus Shale gas drilling flow back water

Yixin Yao, Tingting Chen, Steven S. Shen, Yingmei Niu, Thomas L. DesMarais, Reka Linn, Eric Saunders, Zhihua Fan, Paul Lioy, Thomas Kluz, Lung Chi Chen, Zhuangchun Wu, Max Costa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The rapid development of high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing for mining natural gas from shale has posed potential impacts on human health and biodiversity. The produced flow back waters after hydraulic stimulation are known to carry high levels of saline and total dissolved solids. To understand the toxicity and potential carcinogenic effects of these wastewaters, flow back waters from five Marcellus hydraulic fracturing oil and gas wells were analyzed. The physicochemical nature of these samples was analyzed by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and scanning electron microscopy/energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy. A cytotoxicity study using colony formation as the endpoint was carried out to define the LC 50 values of test samples using human bronchial epithelial cells (BEAS-2B). The BEAS-2B cell transformation assay was employed to assess the carcinogenic potential of the samples. Barium and strontium were among the most abundant metals in these samples and the same metals were found to be elevated in BEAS-2B cells after long-term treatment. BEAS-2B cells treated for 6weeks with flow back waters produced colony formation in soft agar that was concentration dependent. In addition, flow back water-transformed BEAS-2B cells show better migration capability when compared to control cells. This study provides information needed to assess the potential health impact of post-hydraulic fracturing flow back waters from Marcellus Shale natural gas mining.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-130
Number of pages10
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dr. Carl S Kirby from Bucknell University and Dr. Judith T Zelikoff from New York University for generously providing flow back water; laboratory colleagues and EHSCC inter-Center Work Group for their valuable discussions and suggestions. This work was supported by a supplement to NIEHS Center grant #ES 000260 awarded to Costa and by grant R01ES023174 , R01ES022935 and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities # 30920130111020 awarded to Wu.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Inc.


  • Barium
  • Cytotoxicity
  • Epigenetics
  • Marcellus shale
  • Mutagenesis
  • Strontium


Dive into the research topics of 'Malignant human cell transformation of Marcellus Shale gas drilling flow back water'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this