A new study found that fracking wells may boost the risk of having an unhealthy birth weight for babies born to mothers that lived in the proximity of a fracking site during pregnancy. Low-weight newborns are known to have a higher risk of developing other conditions later in life, like diabetes and heart disease.
It is not the first time a study assesses the health implications of fracking for people living near fracking sites. In some states, the practice has been banned over health and environmental concerns.
More and more studies pinpoint that living near such gas developments poses numerous health risks from neurological disorders and asthma to heart disease and cancer. Past research has also found a link between drilling sites and low birth weight, but because of low sample size, the findings were quickly dismissed.
Now, a team at Princeton University tried to overcome such limitations and obtained access to more than 1 million birth certificates of Pennsylvania babies. The documents included home addresses, birth defects, and birth weight.
Researchers used the addresses to find the babies born to moms living near fracking sites. On maps, researchers marked the high-risk sites to be in as an expecting mother. The most hazardous sites were those within a 0.6-mile range of a fracking well.
Babies that were born to moms living so close to a drilling site had a 25% higher risk of having a low birth weight than their peers born to moms outside this range.
The findings, which appeared in Science Advances, also show that those babies had lower scores on the tests assessing infant health. Babies born between 0.6 miles and 1.8 miles away from the sites had also lower birth weights but the health complications were less severe than those in babies born within the 0.6-mile range.
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