How Does Hydraulic Fracturing Impact on Infant Health?

While some local communities find hydraulic fracturing as benefiting the local economy, a new study shows the hidden health risks to infants born to mothers living within 2 miles of a hydraulic fracturing site.

There is no doubt that hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, has turned small towns into energy capitals. However, what is the true cost? What are the potential health and environmental consequences that come along with fracking?

A new study, which was published in Science Advances, has shown that there are increased health risks for infants born to mothers living within a 2 mile (3.2 kilometer) radius of a hydraulic fracturing site.

It was also found that infants born within 800 meters (half a mile) of a fracking site are 25 percent more likely to be born at low birth weights. This has led to a greater risk of infant mortality, ADHD, asthma, lower test scores, lower schooling attainment, and lower lifetime earnings.

Co-author Janet Currie, from the Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University, said in a statement:

Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Professor in Economics and director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago and co-author of the study, added:

The researchers used records from more than 1.1 million births across Pennsylvania from 2004 to 2013. They then compared infants born to mothers living near a drilling site to those living farther away from a site, before and after fracking began at that site.

It was found that the most significant impact was among babies born within approximately 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) of a site, as those babies were 25 percent more likely to be of a low birth weight.

The risk of low birth weight of infants who were born to mothers living between 0.5 miles (800 meters) and 2 miles (1.6 kilometers) decreased by about a half to a third.

Infants born to mothers living beyond 2 miles (3 kilometers) had experienced little to no impact to their health, Currie explained:

Co-author Katherine Meckel, assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, added:

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Is Nicotine the Answer to Treating Chronic Lung Disease?


Researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have discovered the highly addictive drug in tobacco products, called nicotine, may help people with sarcoidosis, a chronic inflammatory lung disease.

The main symptom of most lung diseases is shortness of breath, however, with sarcoidosis, its debilitating fatigue makes it frequently misdiagnosed. When left untreated, the disease can cause severe lung damage and even death.

It is currently treated with steroids, which often have side effects that are more severe than the symptoms of the disease itself. Dr. Elliott Crouser, a pulmonologist specializing in sarcoidosis, said in a statement:

Now, Dr. Crouser believes there may be some good results using nicotine, and he is now conducting a clinical trial at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. In the trial, nicotine patches will be used to see whether the nicotine contained helps with the chronic inflammatory lung disease.

In the trial, nicotine patches will be used to see whether the nicotine contained helps with the chronic inflammatory lung disease. (Image: via wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0)

During a small initial study, the patches, which are normally used to help people stop smoking, indicated there was some benefit. The researchers are now conducting a larger, randomized trial. Dr. Crouser went on to say:

Some trial participants will receive a patch with nicotine, while others will be given a placebo. Researchers will then evaluate lung function for seven months using computerized axial tomography (CAT scans), along with computer models, to monitor disease progression or improvement.

It is not known what causes sarcoidosis, however, experts believe it’s related to environmental exposure. It is also unclear what triggers the disease, as the symptoms vary in each person. Many patients can recover from the disease or go into remission; however, for some, it’s a chronic condition. Dr. Crouser explains that:

To find out more about the trial, or to see if you’re eligible, go to studysearch.

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