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12/20/2017 4:59 pm  #1

Fracking linked to low birth weight in Pennsylvania babies

Fracking linked to low birth weight in Pennsylvania babies

Study of birth records finds association between infant health and mom’s proximity to production sites

Living near a fracking site appears to be detrimental to infant health, a study eyeing the gas production practice in Pennsylvania suggests.

Babies of moms living within one kilometer of a hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, site in the state had a 25 percent greater chance of being born underweight than did babies whose moms lived at least three kilometers away, researchers report online December 13 in Science Advances. The chance of having a low-birth-weight baby was 1 in 14 for the moms living closest to a fracking site, but 1 in 17 for moms three to 15 kilometers away, says Janet Currie, an economist at Princeton University.

For babies born to moms living within one to three kilometers away from a site, the chance of being underweight at birth was about 8 percent greater than for babies of the more distant moms, Currie says. The study found no ill effect on infants born to moms residing farther away, an indication that fracking’s health impact may be highly local. In the study, distance of residences from the fracking sites was used as a stand-in for potential pollution exposure. But the researchers did not measure actual pollution exposure, or figure out whether people faced exposure through water, air or both.

Pam Factor-Litvak, an epidemiologist at Columbia University not involved in the study, notes that it’s possible the associations between fracking and poor infant health could be due to other factors besides pollution, such as extreme levels of maternal stress, perhaps due to noise and continuous traffic to and from the sites.

“These results point to a concern of fracking,” Factor-Litvak says, but work remains to discover the mechanism behind the apparent connection to low birth weight. “There is a definite need to study the health effects of fracking accounting for the short-term changes in air quality, the possible long-term changes in water quality and the associations with stress.”

Fracking, which injects liquids underground at high pressure to extract oil and natural gas from hard to reach places, can contaminate water (SN Online: 10/12/15) and air, due to chemicals used in the process. Currie points out that hydraulic fracturing often moves into areas that didn’t previously have industrial activity, providing the opportunity to measure health effects before and after fracking begins.

Currie and her colleagues examined records of more than 1.1 million births in Pennsylvania from 2004 to 2013 to gather information about infant health as well as each mother’s residence and her race, education and marital status. The researchers took note of birth weight, which is often used as a sign of fetal health in studies of environmental pollution. Low-birth-weight babies, who weigh less than 2,500 grams, or 5.5 pounds, have a greater risk of illness and delayed development.

We live in a time in which decent and otherwise sensible people are surrendering too easily to the hectoring of morons or extremists. 

12/20/2017 6:13 pm  #2

Re: Fracking linked to low birth weight in Pennsylvania babies

From crack babies to frack babies in two generations.

Some  "progress".

Life is an Orthros.

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