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Estimating the Potential Toxicity of Chemicals Associated with Hydraulic Fracturing Operations Using Quantitative Structure–Activity Relationship Modeling

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posted on 12.05.2016, 00:00 by Erin E. Yost, John Stanek, Robert S. DeWoskin, Lyle D. Burgoon
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified 1173 chemicals associated with hydraulic fracturing fluids, flowback, or produced water, of which 1026 (87%) lack chronic oral toxicity values for human health assessments. To facilitate the ranking and prioritization of chemicals that lack toxicity values, it may be useful to employ toxicity estimates from quantitative structure–activity relationship (QSAR) models. Here we describe an approach for applying the results of a QSAR model from the TOPKAT program suite, which provides estimates of the rat chronic oral lowest-observed-adverse-effect level (LOAEL). Of the 1173 chemicals, TOPKAT was able to generate LOAEL estimates for 515 (44%). To address the uncertainty associated with these estimates, we assigned qualitative confidence scores (high, medium, or low) to each TOPKAT LOAEL estimate, and found 481 to be high-confidence. For 48 chemicals that had both a high-confidence TOPKAT LOAEL estimate and a chronic oral reference dose from EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) database, Spearman rank correlation identified 68% agreement between the two values (permutation p-value =1 × 10–11). These results provide support for the use of TOPKAT LOAEL estimates in identifying and prioritizing potentially hazardous chemicals. High-confidence TOPKAT LOAEL estimates were available for 389 of 1026 hydraulic fracturing-related chemicals that lack chronic oral RfVs and OSFs from EPA-identified sources, including a subset of chemicals that are frequently used in hydraulic fracturing fluids.