Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

New researchers follows growing scientific evidence that fracking poses threat to public health. (Photo: Derek Swanson/flickr/cc)

New researchers follows growing scientific evidence that fracking poses threat to public health. (Photo: Derek Swanson/flickr/cc)

Disturbing New Study Links Fracking Wells to Lower Birth Weights

'These findings cannot be ignored,' urges University of Pittsburgh researcher.

Sarah Lazare

In an alarming new study, University of Pittsburgh researchers revealed that pregnant parents who live in close proximity to fracking wells are more likely than their counterparts, who live farther away, to have babies with lower birth weights.

Perinatal Outcomes and Unconventional Natural Gas Operations in Southwest Pennsylvania was published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE. Hailing from Pitt's Graduate School of Public Health, the researchers investigated birth outcomes for 15,451 babies born between 2007 and 2010 in three counties in the fracking-heavy state of Pennsylvania: Washington, Westmoreland, and Butler.

"Mothers whose homes fell in the top group for proximity to a high density of such wells were 34 percent more likely to have babies who were 'small for gestational age' than mothers whose homes fell in the bottom 25 percent," states a summary of the report's conclusions. "Small for gestational age refers to babies whose birth weight ranks them below the smallest 10 percent when compared to their peers."

Stop!

We Interrupt This Article with an Urgent Message!

Common Dreams is a not-for-profit organization. We fund our news team by pooling together many small contributions from our readers. No advertising. No selling our readers’ information. No reliance on big donations from the 1%. This allows us to maintain the editorial independence that our readers rely on. But this media model only works if enough readers pitch in.
We urgently need your help today.
If you support Common Dreams and you want us to survive, your gift today is critical.
Please give now to our Mid-Year Fundraiser!

A low birth weight is associated with medical problems later in life, including diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

The researchers say these findings held up even when numerous other factors were taken into account, including prenatal care, education, age, and birthing history. They emphasized that the study does not definitively prove a causal relationship between fracking wells and low birth weights, but is certainly cause for concern—and further investigation.

"Our work is a first for our region and supports previous research linking unconventional gas development and adverse health outcomes," said co-author Dr. Bruce Pitt, chair of Pitt Public Health’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. "These findings cannot be ignored. There is a clear need for studies in larger populations with better estimates of exposure and more in-depth medical records."

The paper follows numerous scientific findings that fracking poses severe human health and environmental hazards, from contaminated drinking water to earthquakes. A separate study published in April by Johns Hopkins University researchers found that homes and buildings closer to Pennsylvania fracking sites had a higher concentration of the carcinogenic gas radon.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Biggest Win for Tax Fairness' in Decades: Progressives Cheer Reforms in IRA, Demand More

"While this bill establishes desperately needed changes to our tax laws and IRS funding, it is still a far cry from the systemic changes that we need in our society to rectify the hold the rich still have on every level of our economy."

Kenny Stancil ·


'Care Can't Wait': IRA a Good Start, Progressives Say, But More Is Needed

"Americans deserve a full loaf of bread," said health justice advocate Ady Barkan.

Kenny Stancil ·


'I'm Back': Fetterman Returns to Campaign Trail Following May Stroke

"I'm not only grateful to be alive, but also for the campaign we're building together," said the Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania's open U.S. Senate seat.

Kenny Stancil ·


Because Climate Science 'Does Not Grade on a Curve,' Experts Says IRA Not Enough

"There is an urgent need for much more aggressive and far-reaching measures to prevent climate chaos," said the head of one progressive consumer advocacy group.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Game-Changer and Reason for Hope': House Passes Inflation Reduction Act

"We've got more to do," Rep. Pramila Jayapal said on the House floor. "But today, let's celebrate this massive investment for the people."

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo