Thursday, December 14, 2017

Fracking connected to low birth weight, other health problems for infants in Pennsylvania

Pregnant women who live near active hydraulic-fracturing sites for oil and gas in Pennsylvania have an elevated risk of giving birth to babies with lower birth weight and other health problems, according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances.

The study found that infants born within 3 kilometers, and especially those within 1 kilometer, of active fracking sites are 25 percent more likely to have a low birth weight. A birth weight of below 5.5 pounds puts infants at greater risk of dying or having health problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or asthma.

The study says about 29,000 of the nearly 4 million annual births in the U.S. occur to women living within 1 kilometer of an active fracking site, most of them in rural areas. About 95,000 babies are born to women who live within 3 kilometers of an active fracking site.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently allowed fracking operations to use chemicals that could cause serious health problems in people who live near active sites, including those that could harm infants and fetuses. Research indicates that fracking wells can contaminate drinking water up to one kilometer away from the well pad, and a study released in October found that multiple air and water pollutants near fracking wells are linked to brain problems in children.
The triangles represent fracking wells; the colored squares correspond to the birth rate.
(Science Advances map; click on the image to enlarge it.)
"It is the first peer-reviewed research that shows large-scale evidence that fracking may negatively affect infant health. It was co-authored by economists from Princeton University, the University of Chicago and UCLA and based on a study of more than 1.1 million births between 2004 and 2013 in Pennsylvania, a major producer of natural gas from shale deposits," Tom DiChristopher and John Schoen report for CNBC.

The American Petroleum Institute panned the study, saying the study ignored important factors that could also cause low birth weight like family history and other environmental factors. But the researchers controlled for those factors by comparing sibling groups in which some of the children were born before fracking operations began and some were born afterwards.

No comments: