Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

New Study Shows Proximity to Fracking Sites Increases Risk of Birth Defects

Energy

Fracking in Colorado. Video screenshot: PBS

The dangers of fracking are no secret, but a study released this week shows the devastating impact the process can have on babies before they even have a chance to live their lives.

The unborn children of pregnant women who live within a 10-mile radius of fracking sites are far more susceptible to congenital heart defects (CHD), according to Birth Outcomes and Maternal Residential Proximity to Natural Gas Development in Rural Colorado, the latest study from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH) and Environmental Health Perspectives' (EHP).

The study examined data from 124,842 rural Colorado births from 1996 to 2009.

"We observed an association between density and proximity of natural gas wells within a 10-mile radius of maternal residence and prevalence of CHDs and possibly neural tube defects," the study reads.

Gary Wockner, director of Clean Water Action's Colorado program, had a more direct interpretation of the study.

"These findings suggest that fracking causes babies to be deformed—the more we learn about fracking, the worse it gets," he said. "If you live near a fracking site and you want to have a healthy baby, you should consider moving."

According to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, 26 percent of the more than 47,000 oil and gas wells in the state are located within 150 to 1000 feet of a home or other type of building that is intended for human occupancy.

"What's most shocking is that this extremely dangerous industrial process of fracking has been allowed to occur with virtually no regulation and no study of the public health impacts," Wockner said. "This study is revealing the terrible truth about fracking—it is a public health hazard, the breadth of which we are only beginning to know about."

The six researchers listed on the study say they restricted the analysis to rural towns of 50,000 or less in 57 counties—those with less potential for other pollution sources like traffic, congestion and industry. Essentially, more wells in a given area increase the risk of birth defects. The group would not conclude that "a positive association" exists between fracking sites and early chances of a child birth impacted fetal growth, though both were listed among outcomes that occurred.

"Studies in Colorado, Texas, Wyoming and Oklahoma have demonstrated that natural gas development (NGD) results in emission of volatile organic compounds, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from either the well itself or from associated drilling processes or related infrastructure, i.e., drilling muds, hydraulic fracturing fluids, tanks containing waste water and liquid hydrocarbons, diesel engines, compressor stations, dehydrators and pipelines," the study reads.

"Some of these pollutants [e.g., toluene, xylenes, and benzene] are suspected teratogens or mutagens and are known to cross the placenta, raising the possibility of fetal exposure to these and other pollutants resulting from NGD. Currently, there are few studies on the effects of air pollution or NGD on birth outcomes."

Other findings and birth defects include:

  • Endocardial cushion defect
  • Pulmonary valve atresia and stenosis
  • "Births to mothers in the most exposed tertile (> 125 wells/mile) had a 30 percent greater prevalence of CHDs than those with no wells in a 10-mile radius."

Wockner said a citizens' revolt against fracking is ongoing near Denver, with cities 0f more than 400,000 people voting to effectively ban fracking. He believes these results will change that.

"The results of this study will continue to escalate that revolt, and rightly so," he said. "Fracking is a dangerous industrial process that uses cancer-causing chemicals—it has absolutely no place near communities where families live, work and play."

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Anderson Community Group. Left to right, Caroline Laur, Anita Foust, the Rev. Bryon Shoffner, and Bill Compton, came together to fight for environmental justice in their community. Anderson Community Group

By Isabella Garcia

On Thanksgiving Day 2019, right after Caroline Laur had finished giving thanks for her home, a neighbor at church told her that a company had submitted permit requests to build an asphalt plant in their community. The plans indicated the plant would be 250 feet from Laur's backdoor.

Read More Show Less
Berber woman cooks traditional flatbread using an earthen oven in her mud-walled village home located near the historic village of Ait Benhaddou in Morocco, Africa on Jan. 4, 2016. Creative Touch Imaging Ltd. /NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Danielle Nierenberg and Jason Flatt

The world's Indigenous Peoples face severe and disproportionate rates of food insecurity. While Indigenous Peoples comprise 5 percent of the world's population, they account for 15 percent of the world's poor, according to the World Health Organization.

Read More Show Less
Danny Choo / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Olivia Sullivan

One of the many unfortunate outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic has been the quick and obvious increase in single-use plastic products. After COVID-19 arrived in the United States, many grocery stores prohibited customers from using reusable bags, coffee shops banned reusable mugs, and takeout food with plastic forks and knives became the new normal.

Read More Show Less
A mostly empty 110 freeway toward downtown Los Angeles, California on April 28, 2020. Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The shelter in place orders that brought clean skies to some of the world's most polluted cities and saw greenhouse gas emissions plummet were just a temporary relief that provided an illusory benefit to the long-term consequences of the climate crisis. According to new research, the COVID-19 lockdowns will have a "neglible" impact on global warming, as Newshub in New Zealand reported.

Read More Show Less
Centrosaurus apertus was a plant-eating, single-horned dinosaur that lived 76 to 77 million years ago. Sergey Krasovskiy / Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

Scientists have discovered and diagnosed the first instance of malignant cancer in a dinosaur, and they did so by using modern medical techniques. They published their results earlier this week in The Lancet Oncology.

Read More Show Less
Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. NPS

By Joe Roman and Taylor Ricketts

The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the "happiness" of people's words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The ubiquity of guns and bullets poses environmental risks. Contaminants in bullets include lead, copper, zinc, antimony and mercury. gorancakmazovic / iStock / Getty Images Plus

New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday that she will attempt to dismantle the National Rifle Association (NRA), arguing that years of corruption and mismanagement warrant the dissolution of the activist organization, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less