Fracking Tied to Premature Births


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Researchers have found that living near hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations is associated with premature births.

Scientists studied records of 10,496 singleton births by 9,384 mothers from 2009 to 2013 in Pennsylvania where fracking is conducted. They recorded gestational time, birth weight, five-minute Apgar score and size for gestational age.

The study, in Epidemiology, controlled for many environmental, health, behavioral and socioeconomic factors. It used dates and depth of drilling, volume of production and distance to the mother’s home to estimate exposure.

The 25 percent of mothers most exposed to fracking were 40 percent more likely to give birth preterm (after less than 37 weeks of gestation) than the quarter least exposed. There was no association with Apgar score or being small for gestational age.

“Our study doesn’t tell us anything about mechanism,” said the lead author, Joan A. Casey, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, San Francisco. “And we don’t claim this is the end of the conversation. But there have been multiple flags that there could be problems. Before we continue, we ought to take public health conditions into consideration.”

Energy in Depth, an energy industry group, said on their website that the study “attempts to link fracking with premature births. But the actual data don’t support that conclusion.”



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