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Air pollution from fracking wells linked to low birth weights in newborns

Fracking wells

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(NaturalNews) As if fracking, or unconventional gas drilling (UGD), is not already steeped in environmental and economic controversy, another problem has developed that points to its detrimental consequences. Sadly, it directly impacts people who are helpless and voiceless in the matter; innocent babies born in fracking environments have been shown to have lower birth weights than those not born near such areas.

Experts from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health assessed three southwestern Pennsylvania counties, reviewing more than 15,000 birth records from 2007 through 2010. These dates are significant, as they highlight the potential problems behind UGDs; prior to 2007, just 44 wells were drilled in the studied areas. From 2007 to 2010, the number grew to a whopping 2,864 wells, which begs the question of how the technology may be affecting those living nearby. The study included four groups based on "the number and proximity of wells within a 10-mile radius of the mothers' homes," according to the study's press release.(1)

Study reinforces sensitivity of developing fetuses

The results, which were published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that mothers who were in the top well-to-residence proximity group -- with at least six wells per mile -- were 34 percent more likely to have babies of a lower birth weight than mothers who lived in areas in the bottom 25 percent. The fact that the researchers also took influencing birth weight factors into consideration such as whether the mother smoked or had previous babies strengthens the findings.(1)

"Developing fetuses are particularly sensitive to the effects of environmental pollutants," said Bruce Pitt, Ph.D., chair of the Graduate School of Public Health's Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. He's also the study's co-author. "We know that fine particulate air pollution, exposure to heavy metals and benzene, and maternal stress all are associated with lower birth weight."(1)

Indeed, such fracking has been linked to air pollution since the process is known to generate the aforementioned particulates. Furthermore, contaminated liquid runoff as well as increased diesel truck use around fracking areas creates even more environmental pollutants. This study makes the case that no one is immune to its potential health consequences, not even newborns. Once again, as with many intentional environmental disruptions in today's world (GMOs, anyone?) the effects are far-reaching beyond the here-and-now.

Study says fetus sensitivity to hydrofracturing can have "significant lifetime consequences"

The study, titled "Perinatal Outcomes and Unconventional Natural Gas Operations in Southwest Pennsylvania," notes the following:

Unconventional gas drilling (UGD) has enabled extraordinarily rapid growth in the extraction of natural gas. Despite frequently expressed public concern, human health studies have not kept pace. ... [A] small but significant association between proximity to UGD and decreased birth weight was noted after accounting for a large number of contributing factors available from birth certificate data in Southwest Pennsylvania. ... [T]his study is among the first to report a human health effect associated with hydrofracturing. The embryo/fetus is particularly sensitive to the effects of environmental agents, which can have significant lifetime consequences; therefore, further investigation appears warranted.(2)

It's important to note that each site varies in the chemicals it produces (type, density) and could therefore alter certain findings. Furthermore, experts also suggest that, in this instance, more comprehensive medical records could affect the results. Still, the declaration that this finding is significant once again suggests that more people should open their eyes to the hazards that can occur when the planet is unnaturally tampered and toyed with.(1,2)

Low-birth-weight babies are not only more prone to infant mortality but also more likely to develop serious respiratory problems, heart complications and jaundice. Furthermore, they may go on to face hyperactivity disorders and developmental issues later in life.


(1) http://www.upmc.com

(2) http://journals.plos.org

(3) http://www.psychiatry.emory.edu[PDF]

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