Hydraulic Fracturing Negatively Impacts Infant Health

Hydraulic Fracturing Negatively Impacts Infant Health

According to the December edition of Science Advances, infants born to mothers living within 2 miles of a hydraulic fracking site are at high health risks.

A team of researchers from the Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs have found that infants born within half a mile of a fracking site were 25 percent more likely to be born at low birth weights, leaving them at greater risk of infant mortality, ADHD, asthma, lower test scores, lower schooling attainment, and lower lifetime earnings.

“Given the growing evidence that pollution affects babies in utero, it should not be surprising that fracking, which is a heavy industrial activity, has negative effects on infants. As local and state policymakers decide whether to allow hydraulic fracking in their communities, it is crucial that they carefully examine the costs and benefits, including the potential impacts from pollution,” said study co-author Michael Greenstone.

This study provides the strongest evidence of a link between the pollution resulting from hydraulic fracking activities and human health, specifically that of babies.

The team used records from over 1.1 million births across Pennsylvania from 2004 to 2013, and compared infants born to mothers living near a drilling site to those living farther away. Babies born within 0.6 miles of a site were recorded to be significantly impacted and 25 percent were under 5.5 pounds. Infants born to mothers living beyond 2 miles experienced little to no impact to their health.

“These results suggest that hydraulic fracking does have an impact on our health, though the good news is that this is only at a highly localized level. Out of the nearly 4 million babies born in the United States each year, about 29,000 of them are born within about a half mile of a fracking site,” said Currie.

Although it is known that pollution from the hydraulic fracking sites impacts health, it is uncertain as to where the pollution is coming from— the air or water, from chemicals onsite, or an increase in traffic.

Although fracking is said to cause health implications, it employs several fluids such as citric acid, ethylene glycol, and guar gum, which do not seem to contain harmful elements. For instance guar gum is used as an emulsifier in the chemicals industry as well as a stabilizer in the food industry, according to guar gum market report published by Coherent Market Insights.

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As researchers are still unsure as to what is the source of pollution associated with fracking, it would be a difficult decision to allow fracking sites to continue functioning so as to boost economy or to ban it altogether, considering the health implication it causes.

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