Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Study: Fracking Chemicals Harm Kids' Brains

Fracking
Natural gas flaring near a school. Kellly Finan

A new study from the Center for Environmental Health adds to the growing body of evidence that unconventional oil and gas (UOG), which includes fracking, is harmful to human health and especially hazardous to vulnerable populations, including newborns and children.

During the fracking process, a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is directed at high pressures into shale beds to release petroleum resources. This slurry involves the use of nearly 700 chemicals, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found.


The new research, published Wednesday in Reviews on Environmental Health, examined five particular air and water pollutants that are widely used in or byproducts of UOG development and operations—heavy metals, particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrobcarbons, BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes), and endocrine disrupting compounds.

"Every stage of the UOG lifecycle, from well construction to extraction, operations, transportation and distribution can lead to air and water contamination," the paper notes.

Dauntingly, the researchers found that early life exposure to these substances has been linked to potentially permanent learning and neuropsychological deficits, neurodevelopmental disorders and neurological birth defects.

"Given the profound sensitivity of the developing brain and central nervous system, it is reasonable to conclude that young children who experience frequent exposure to these pollutants are at particularly high risk for chronic neurological diseases."

This is the first literature review to focus explicitly on the effects of the UOG industry on the neurodevelopmental and neurological health of infants and children. In other words, this is the first time researchers have examined how children's brains are affected by living near fracking sites.

Ellen Webb of the Center for Environmental Health and lead author of the study explained to Environmental Health News that the research on children's health near oil and gas sites is "slowly emerging" but that "it's only reasonable to conclude that young children with frequent exposure to these pollutants would be at high risk for neurological diseases."

The authors warn that people living near such operations can suffer from increased exposure to elevated concentrations of air and water pollutants. About 17.6 million Americans live within one mile of an active oil or gas well, a separate study found.

The Center for Environmental Health research team suggested a setback of at least one mile between drilling sites and buildings such as schools, hospitals and other spaces where infants and children might spend a substantial amount of time. The researchers also recommended more research on how low levels of long term exposure from multiple drilling chemicals might affect people's health, mandatory testing of industrial chemicals used on sites, and more transparency of chemicals used in UOG.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef in 2016. Oregon State University / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Great Barrier Reef's third mass bleaching event in five years is also its most widespread, according to new data released Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
The CDC has emphasized that washing hands with soap and water is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Guido Mieth / Moment / Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control has emphasized that washing hands with soap and water is one of the most effective measures we can take in preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, millions of Americans in some of the most vulnerable communities face the prospect of having their water shut off during the lockdowns, according to The Guardian.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A California newt (Taricha torosa) from Napa County, California, USA. Connor Long / CC BY-SA 3.0

Aerial photos of the Sierra Nevada — the long mountain range stretching down the spine of California — showed rust-colored swathes following the state's record-breaking five-year drought that ended in 2016. The 100 million dead trees were one of the most visible examples of the ecological toll the drought had wrought.

Now, a few years later, we're starting to learn about how smaller, less noticeable species were affected.

Read More Show Less
Disinfectants and cleaners claiming to sanitize against the novel coronavirus have started to flood the market.
Natthawat / Moment / Getty Images

Disinfectants and cleaners claiming to sanitize against the novel coronavirus have started to flood the market, raising concerns for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which threatened legal recourse against retailers selling unregistered products, according to The New York Times.

Read More Show Less
A customer packs groceries in reusable bags at a NYC supermarket on March 1, 2020. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

The global coronavirus pandemic has thrown our daily routine into disarray. Billions are housebound, social contact is off-limits and an invisible virus makes up look at the outside world with suspicion. No surprise, then, that sustainability and the climate movement aren't exactly a priority for many these days.

Read More Show Less