Fracking Linked to Low Birthweight Babies
Friday, December 29, 2017
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pregnant women living near fracked gas wells are more likely to have a low birthweight baby - that's the finding in a new study from Princeton University.
The researchers compared standard birthweight records collected by Pennsylvania hospitals with the locations of the parents' homes. Low birth weight has long been considered an important indicator of later health problems.
Princeton economics professor Janet Currie says they found a strong correlation - that the low birth weights were highly localized and much more likely to be found right next to the well sites.
"What is surprising is, we found a fairly large effect for people living very close; but by the time you got to two miles away, we did not detect any effect," she notes.
The industry argues that air pollution from gas wells and equipment such as compressor stations disperses quickly after it's released.
The state Department of Environmental Protection is finalizing tighter regulations for emissions from new oil and gas facilities.
But Patrice Tomcik, with Moms Clean Air Force, notes that the new rules don't cover wells, compressor stations and pipelines already in service.
"We need a solution for reducing the methane pollution from these existing sources that are sickening our families today," she says.
Emissions of methane, the main component of natural gas, also carry other pollutants including volatile organic compounds. Tomcik says about 1.5 million Pennsylvanians live within half a mile of oil and gas facilities.
Beth Weinberger, a public health consultant with the Environmental Health Project, says previous research indicates preterm births and similar issues may be due to volatile organic compounds such as benzene, or small, soot-like particles such as those found in diesel exhaust, pollutants associated with drilling operations.
"We know much of what's in the emissions, and in each of the studies, the researchers have found associations between exposure to gas drilling and birth outcomes," Weinberger says.
The Princeton research suggests keeping drilling away from homes, through zoning or well set-back rules.
get more stories like this via email
This election season, South Dakota is starting to implement voting-access reforms in light of a recent settlement with Native American tribes…
Between rising inflation and the ups and downs of the stock market, it isn't surprising that folks are concerned about their own financial situation…
The U.S. Postal Service is hiring 28,000 seasonal employees ahead of the surge in end-of-year holiday letters and packages for facilities in Michigan …
The roughly 2.4 million Ohioans who rely on Social Security income are expected to get a big boost in benefits, but advocates for the program are …
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and her challenger, former Republican Gov. Paul LePage, both are courting votes from Maine's largest contingency -- …
Health and Wellness
Even for Virginians who think they're too busy to exercise, experts say there's one surefire way to squeeze in a modest workout: walking. Although …
Groups challenging the criminal consequences for failing to pay rent in Arkansas say they'll take another run at it, perhaps as a class-action …
Wisconsin is one of 33 states allowing Social Security benefits to be extended to teachers. As the future of the program is debated, a retired …