Quantcast

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

Pixabay

By Claire L. Jarvis

A ruckus over biofuels has been brewing in Iowa.

Read More Show Less
Serena and Venus Williams have been known to follow a vegan diet. Edwin Martinez / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Whitney E. Akers

  • "The Game Changers" is a new documentary on Netflix that posits a vegan diet can improve athletic performance in professional athletes.

  • Limited studies available show that the type of diet — plant-based or omnivorous — doesn't give you an athletic advantage.

  • We talked to experts about what diet is the best for athletic performance.

Packed with record-setting athletes displaying cut physiques and explosive power, "The Game Changers," a new documentary on Netflix, has a clear message: Vegan is best.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
An illegally trafficked tiger skull and pelt. Ryan Moehring / USFWS

By John R. Platt

When it comes to solving problems related to wildlife trade, there are an awful lot of "sticky widgets."

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Inflammation can be both good and bad.

On one hand, it helps your body defend itself from infection and injury. On the other hand, chronic inflammation can lead to weight gain and disease.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Dan Nosowitz

It's no secret that the past few years have been disastrous for the American farming industry.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD

Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil and coconut oil are fats that have risen in popularity alongside the ketogenic, or keto, diet.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Bijal Trivedi

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report on Nov. 13 that describes a list of microorganisms that have become resistant to antibiotics and pose a serious threat to public health. Each year these so-called superbugs cause more than 2.8 million infections in the U.S. and kill more than 35,000 people.

Read More Show Less
Rool Paap / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Inflammation can be good or bad depending on the situation.

Read More Show Less