As I wander around the Internet finding out what I can about oil and gas drilling, I run into an increasing amount of academic research that links fracking to a variety of health and environmental issues. As an example, a couple of weeks ago I wrote about how fracking raises the risk of reproductive, metabolic, neurological and other diseases among children who are exposed to the endocrine-disrupting chemicals used in fracking.
No matter how this list accumulates, there is a constant refrain from pro-frackers: “There is no proven link between fracking and health issues.”
Unless you look.
In a study presented today at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association in Philadelphia, the researchers — Janet Currie of Princeton University, Katherine Meckel of Columbia University, and John Deutch and Michael Greenstone of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — looked at Pennsylvania birth records from 2004 to 2011 to assess the health of infants born within a 2.5-kilometer radius of natural-gas fracking sites. They found that proximity to fracking increased the likelihood of low birth weight by more than half, from about 5.6 percent to more than 9 percent. The chances of a low Apgar score, a summary measure of the health of newborn children, roughly doubled, to more than 5 percent.
The study corroborates similar results from a 2012 study by Elaine Hill, a PhD student at Cornell University.
The study did not conclude why the relationship exists between fracking and the health of newborns. According to the authors, it does not appear that water is the culprit.– results were the same for babies who drank from monitored public water supplies and private wells.
When the drill at any cost folks say, “This is the price we have to pay for economic growth,” is this really what they mean?
The study has yet to be peer reviewed or published on the Internet, but you can read more about it in a piece by Mark Whitehouse at Bloomberg.