Hydraulic fracturing has been linked to everything from flammable drinking water to earthquakes. Now, exploratory research shows that the negative health effects of fracking may start before before we’re even born.
Analysis of birth measures in Pennsylvania, which has a high concentration of fracking operations, revealed that mothers exposed to this dangerous method of natural gas extraction are 25 percent more likely to deliver an underweight baby.
Low birth weight or premature babies experience increased risk for learning difficulties, vision difficulties, chronic respiratory problems like asthma, and cerebral palsy. On average, a low birth-weight baby can cost an additional $51,000 before its first birthday, not includinjg long-term costs for the child or decrease in parental earnings.
The study, “Unconventional Natural Gas Development and Infant Health: Evidence from Pennsylvania,” was conducted by Cornell doctoral candidate Elaine L. Hill. To arrive at her conclusion, Hill examined birth measures, including birth weight and premature birth from 2003 (before fracking began in Pennsylvania) up to 2010, and focused on those mothers living within 1.5 miles of a fracking operation.
Hill recently testified about her results at a fracking forum hosted by Sen. Tony Avella in New York City last week. New York currently has a moratorium on fracking, but may start issuing permits by early next year. Hill’s testimony represented a huge risk for the doctoral student, who’s work does not share the same protection as a tenured professor.
“My study is robust across multiple specifications and it indicates that our future generation may be seriously harmed. I couldn’’t possibly value my career over their well-being,” wrote Hill in an email to The Epoch Times. It may take up to two years to finish the peer review process for her study, at which time she hopes new fracking regulations will already be in place.
Image via marcellusprotest/Flickr