New research has found that babies born to mothers living up to about 2 miles from a fracking site suffer from poorer health.
The adverse health effects are likely due to the pollution produced by the hydraulic fracturing technology according to a major new study.
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Mothers who lived within a kilometre (0.6 miles) of a fracking site were 25 per cent more likely to have a child born with a low birth weight, which increases their chances of asthma, ADHD, lower test scores, lower schooling attainment and lower earnings.
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RT reports: Authored by a research team from Princeton, UCLA and the University of Chicago and published in Science Advances, the paper studied the impact of fracking on 1.1 million births in Pennsylvania between 2004 and 2013.
“The results of our analysis suggest that the introduction of fracking reduces health among infants born to mothers living within 3 km of a well site during pregnancy. For mothers living within 1 km, we find a 25% increase in the probability of low birth weight (birth weight < 2500 g) and significant declines in average birth weight and in an index of infant health,” write the authors.
The paper says that it is impossible to identify the exact mechanisms responsible for the effect, but blame both water pollution resulting from contamination of local supplies and air pollution from the “fracturing fluid” used to develop the wells, as well as emissions from the well products themselves.
The authors say that potential damage to infants – particularly the 0.7 percent of all US children whose mothers live closest to the fracking wells – is significant, because fetuses are particularly sensitive to pollution.
Researchers said they decided to study newborns because they are easiest to compare. Fracking could have a wider list of health implications, on adults as well as on babies, but their relationship to fracking is harder to quantify.
“Because the fetus is in utero for at most 9 months, it is possible to pinpoint the timing of potential exposure. This is not the case with other possible health effects, such as cancer, that develop over long periods of time,” the paper explains.