New, Major Evidence That Fracking Harms Human Health
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, may pose a significant—but very local—harm to human health, a new study finds.
Mothers who live within two miles of a fracking well are more likely to give birth to a child with a low birth weight—which has been linked to poorer health throughout a person’s life.
The study was conducted by Janet Currie, an economist at Princeton University, Michael Greenstone at the University of Chicago, and Katherine Meckel at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Birth weight is a straightforward measurement—it is listed on every baby’s birth certificate—but a low birth weight can affect the path of someone’s life.
Children with a low birth weight have been found to have lower test scores, lower lifetime earnings, and higher rates of reliance on welfare programs throughout their lives.
In one study, researchers examined twins in Norway whose birth weight diverged by 10 percent or more.
Babies who gestated near a well had a reliably lower birth weight than their siblings who were not exposed to the well.
(This split could happen perhaps because one sibling was born before the well opened.)
Pregnant mothers living within half a mile of a fracking well may benefit financially from its presence, diluting the negative health effects of the well itself.
The birth-weight study seems to suggest that air, not water, pollution may instead be the threat that fracking sites pose to human health.