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New research from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has found positive associations between fracking pollution and a higher prevalence of birth defects. Birth defects found to be more prevalent in high pollution areas included congenital heart defects (CHDs) and neural tube defects (NTDs). The risk of CHDs increased when pregnant mothers lived closer to pollution produced by natural gas developments (NGDs) – within a 10 mile radius – while prevalence of NTDs was only elevated in the highest areas of exposure. NGDs have already been linked to multiple pollutants in past studies including benzene and toluene and are known to produce pollution that’s been linked to birth defects such as volatile organic compounds, benzene, nitrogen oxides, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, among others. In order to see how babies are affected by pollution, the researchers calculated the number of natural gas wells within a 10-mile radius of maternal residence then used those figures to estimate maternal exposure to NGD. Prevalence of CHDs increased with exposure, although thankfully no association was found between pollution exposure and oral clefts. That said, the researchers do note that more exposure estimates and research are needed to further explore birth defect associations.

+ Birth Outcomes and Maternal Residential Proximity to Natural Gas Development in Rural Colorado (pdf)

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