Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a natural gas extraction process. In the simplest of terms, it involves drilling down into the ground (eventually making an “L” and drilling horizontally) to reach the natural gas trapped below the shale. Water, sand and chemicals, including nitrogen, are then pumped into the ground. This cracks the shale and allows the gas to either rise up, or to be extracted.
Both Ohio and Kentucky have plenty of natural gas reserves, and so fracking has become an increasingly larger part of our collective economies. The arguments for and against the controversial process are myriad, but we want to focus on one in particular: namely, that babies born within a 2-mile radius (give or take) of fracking sites routinely have lower birthweights than those who are not.
A new piece published in the journal Science Advances evaluated 1.1 million births in Pennsylvania, between 2004 and 2013. According to their findings:
“[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][There is] evidence for negative health effects of in utero exposure to fracking sites within 3 km of a mother’s residence, with the largest health impacts seen for in utero exposure within 1 km of fracking sites. Negative health impacts include a greater incidence of low–birth weight babies as well as significant declines in average birth weight and in several other measures of infant health. There is little evidence for health effects at distances beyond 3 km, suggesting that health impacts of fracking are highly local.”
Earther looked into these claims, and found that the primary cause for these lower birth rates is likely pollution. They quote a press release co-authored by Princeton University professor of economics and public affairs Janet M. Currie as saying, “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.”
Why low birthweights are dangerous for babies
Low birthweight is used to describe babies who weigh 5.5lbs or less at the time of their birth. There are some immediate concerns for babies who weigh too little, per the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Stanford. Babies with low birthweights can have difficulties gaining weight. The may also experience respiratory distress, have difficulties regulating their own body temperatures, and are more prone to infection.
Low birthweight has also been linked to developmental issues. Because the fetus, and then the baby, can have difficulty getting enough oxygen, children with lower birthweights can develop neurological problems as well, and may have bleeding in the brain. Low birthweights have also been linked to sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.
Lower birthweight can lead to health problems later in life
According to the March of Dimes, about 1 in 12 children are born with low birthweight. While many children born with low birthweights grow up to be healthy, there are some risks associated with the condition later on, including increased chances of:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Metabolic syndrome (a combination of all three conditions listed above)
We urge you, if you live in an industrial area (whether this is fracking or not) to make and attend regular appointments with your OB/GYN. The research is still new, but taking precautions cannot hurt. You can and should address any concerns you have with your doctors, who may be able to make suggestions to help assuage those fears.
Crandall & Pera Law fights on behalf of the injured throughout Ohio and Kentucky. If your or your child were the victim of medical negligence, we may be able to help. To speak with an experienced birth injury lawyer in Ohio, please call 877-686-8879. For our attorneys in Kentucky, please call 877-686-8879. You can also fill out our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.
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