Is your drinking water toxic? This app may help you find out

Exposure to hydraulic fracturing fluid in drinking water has been shown to increase the risk of respiratory problems, premature births, congenital heart defects, and other negative health consequences. But not all wells are created equal. Since different hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—sites use a diverse mix of chemical ingredients, often individuals and researchers are in the dark about the exact health consequences of living near a particular well.

Tap faucet head with several drips of water dripping off the top.

Now, a new, interactive tool created by Penn Medicine researchers allows community members and scientists to find out which toxins may be lurking in their drinking water as a result of fracking. By typing your ZIP code into the website or accompanying app—called WellExplorer—you can view the closest fracking sites in your state, learn which chemicals are used at those sites, and view their levels of toxicity.

In a recent study, published in the journal Database, the WellExplorer app’s creators found, for example, that wells in Alabama use a disproportionately high number of ingredients targeting estrogen pathways, while Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania use a high number of ingredients targeting testosterone pathways. The information found through WellExplorer might be particularly relevant for individuals who use private water wells, which are common in rural Pennsylvania, since homeowners may not be performing rigorous testing for these fracking chemicals, according to the study’s principal investigator Mary Regina Boland, an assistant professor of informatics in the Perelman School of Medicine.

This story is by Lauren Ingeno. Read more at Penn Medicine News.