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Living near fracking sites poses increased risk of low birth weights in infants, study finds

Posted at 10:47 PM, Dec 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-14 00:49:34-05

DENVER  -- In the largest study of its kind, researchers found pregnant mothers living within a half-mile of a fracking site have a significantly increased risk of having babies with low birth weights.

The five-year study by economists from Princeton University, the University of Chicago and UCLE,  looked at more than a million births between 2004 and 2013 in Pennsylvania, and it found that babies born within half-a-mile of a fracking site were 25 percent more likely to have low birth weights at the time they were born, leaving them at greater risk of health problems such as ADHD, asthma and infant mortality.

Researchers compared infants born to mothers living near drilling sites to those living farther away before and after fracking began. The study found lower birth weights up to two miles from the drilling sites. However, there was no indication of any impact to babies born more than two miles away.

In Colorado, where more and more oil & gas sites are popping up next to homes and schools, the study confirms fears.

"That's a huge concern for me, especially since we have a pad that's pretty close to a kilometer away from us," said David Nolan, a Broomfield resident who recently joined North Metro Neighbors for Safe Energy once he found out wells would soon be drilled a block from his house. "Myself and my wife are thinking about having kids, but the proposed fracking is worrisome."

In a statement, the Colorado Oil & Gas Association disputes the findings:

“This study makes bold claims while conducting no emission measurements and providing outcomes that contradict the hypothesis, particularly as it relates to measurements between two and three kilometers.  Colorado’s own health department released comprehensive analysis of 10,000 air samples from various parts of Colorado, some within 500ft from an oil and gas site, and found the data indicated a low risk of any harmful effects. It would be wise not to apply questionable data from a Pennsylvania study to Colorado oil and gas operations.” Dan Haley, President & CEO, COGA

The researchers state that while they believe fracking has health impacts, they don't know if it's in the air, water, chemicals on site or traffic, but it is something they would like to research more.