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.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

11 Senators Support House Progressives' Push to Pass Full Biden Agenda

"We voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill with the clear commitment that the two pieces of the package would move together along a dual track."

Jessica Corbett ·


Ex-Prisoners Recall US Torture at 'Afghanistan's Abu Ghraib'

"It is psychologically hard for me to recall all that was happening," said one former Bagram Air Base inmate. "The torture was mostly done by Afghans, sometimes the Americans. But the orders came from the U.S."

Brett Wilkins ·


Rapid Shift to Electric Vehicles Could Create Over 150,000 Jobs in US by 2030

A new report says "smart" pro-labor policies by lawmakers would transform the "inevitable" shift to EVs "into a new beginning for U.S. producers and the rebuilding of a foundation for good jobs."

Kenny Stancil ·


'Groundbreaking' Win as Court Rules USFWS Can't Ignore Climate Impacts on Joshua Tree

The ruling represents a step forward "for all climate-imperiled species whose fate relies upon the service following the law," said advocacy group WildEarth Guardians.

Julia Conley ·


WHO's New Air Pollution Guidelines Reflect Deadly Toll of Fossil Fuels

"What matters most is whether governments implement impactful policies to reduce pollutant emissions, such as ending investments in coal, oil, and gas and prioritizing the transition to clean energy," said a Greenpeace scientist.

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo