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New Evidence Indicates Health Risks of Infants Near Fracking Sites

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New Evidence Indicates Health Risks of Infants Near Fracking Sites

December 20
21:10 2017

Image result for fracking

Fracking is the common name of the process more properly known as hydraulic fracturing. Most of us have heard of fracking but don’t understand what the process really involves. According to the Environmental Protection Agency:

“Hydraulic fracturing produces fractures in the rock formation that stimulate the flow of natural gas or oil, increasing the volumes that can be recovered. Wells may be drilled vertically hundreds to thousands of feet below the land surface and may include horizontal or directional sections extending thousands of feet.”

“Fractures are created by pumping large quantities of fluids at high pressure down a wellbore and into the target rock formation. Hydraulic fracturing fluid commonly consists of water, proppant and chemical additives that open and enlarge fractures within the rock formation. These fractures can extend several hundred feet away from the wellbore. The proppants – sand, ceramic pellets or other small incompressible particles – hold open the newly created fractures.”

“Once the injection process is completed, the internal pressure of the rock formation causes fluid to return to the surface through the wellbore. This fluid is known as both ‘flowback’ and ‘produced water’ and may contain the injected chemicals plus naturally occurring materials such as brines, metals, radionuclides, and hydrocarbons. The flowback and produced water is typically stored on site in tanks or pits before treatment, disposal or recycling. In many cases, it is injected underground for disposal. In areas where that is not an option, it may be treated and reused or processed by a wastewater treatment facility and then discharged to surface water.”

This process is often used to release oil and natural gas that is trapped in rock layers. In the last couple of decades, fracking has become quite popular as it is a relatively inexpensive method of extracting the valuable fuel commodities.

Some health experts and environmentalists have suggested that fracking causes increased health concerns, but the industry has continued to claim the process is safe and not a health risk. A group of researchers decided to take a look at health records in Pennsylvania where fracking has been used in a number of locations. The Abstract of their report states:

“The development of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is considered the biggest change to the global energy production system in the last half-century. However, several communities have banned fracking because of unresolved concerns about the impact of this process on human health. To evaluate the potential health impacts of fracking, we analyzed records of more than 1.1 million births in Pennsylvania from 2004 to 2013, comparing infants born to mothers living at different distances from active fracking sites and those born both before and after fracking was initiated at each site. We adjusted for fixed maternal determinants of infant health by comparing siblings who were and were not exposed to fracking sites in utero. We found evidence for negative health effects of in utero exposure to fracking sites within 3 km of a mother’s residence, with the largest health impacts seen for in utero exposure within 1 km of fracking sites. Negative health impacts include a greater incidence of low–birth weight babies as well as significant declines in average birth weight and in several other measures of infant health. There is little evidence for health effects at distances beyond 3 km, suggesting that health impacts of fracking are highly local. Informal estimates suggest that about 29,000 of the nearly 4 million annual U.S. births occur within 1 km of an active fracking site and that these births therefore may be at higher risk of poor birth outcomes.”

Note that their report says that health risks are negligible at a distance of more than 3 km away. To put that in our terms, 3km is equal to 1.86 miles. If you live in proximity to a fracking site, you should probably be concerned and whatever cautions possible to help insure a healthy baby.

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