Oil Fracking, Premature Births Linked In New Mothers Health Study – What Does The EPA Say?

A new healthy study has linked oil fracking and premature births together. Based on a multi-year study of babies born in Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health believes that hydraulic fracturing can be connected to high risk pregnancies in expectant mothers. But the real question is, why is there an increase in risk, and what does the EPA say about potential water contamination?

In a related report by the Inquisitr, it is believed oil fracking in the Midwest may be causing an increase in Oklahoma earthquakes along the fault lines. Based upon this concern, the Inquisitr interviewed several scientists to ask whether or not it’s possible that earthquakes induced by U.S. oil fracking could affect the Yellowstone supervolcano. But some companies believed that volcano fracking is a good way to produce alternative energy.

Many Americans may be surprised to hear that the United States oil production began beating even Saudi Arabia due to the growing fracking operations throughout the Midwest. Fracking for oil has become such big business that entire cities are springing up out of nothing, and many jobs are being created. In fact, the growth rate in U.S. oil production outpaces the next nine fastest growing countries combined. According to Oil Price, the shale oil industry has seen a pullback, though, and U.S. oil production peaked in April at 9.6 million barrels per day only to drop in productivity in recent times.

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Unfortunately, while the U.S. oil fracking industry has grown at a rapid pace, the medical research community was not able to keep up with the growth.

“The growth in the fracking industry has gotten way out ahead of our ability to assess what the environmental and, just as importantly, public health impacts are,” said study leader Brian S. Schwartz, MD, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Bloomberg School. “More than 8,000 unconventional gas wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania alone. We’re allowing this while knowing almost nothing about what it can do to health. Our research adds evidence to the very few studies that have been done in showing adverse health outcomes associated with the fracking industry.”

Fracking works by pumping a mix of water and chemicals down into wells in order to break up the shale rock and release the trapped oil. Although the EPA’s fracking study concluded in 2015 that fracking has not led to “widespread, systemic” water contamination, the new healthy study may link oil fracking, premature babies together. The EPA has also noted that there is the potential for water contamination.

“From our assessment, we conclude there are above and below ground mechanisms by which hydraulic fracturing activities have the potential to impact drinking water resources,” the EPA wrote in its 2015 report. “We did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.”

Oil pump jacks at dawn. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

According to Science Daily, the new health study considered the records of 9,384 mothers who gave birth to 10,946 babies in Pennsylvania between January 2009 and January 2013. The study considered how close the women lived to oil fracking operations, the depth of the oil wells, and how much oil was produced. They found that women living in areas very active with oil fracking had a 40 percent increase in risk of having a premature birth and a 30 percent increase in having a high risk pregnancy.

So, how could oil fracking and premature births be linked together? Schwartz admits that they can’t pinpoint exactly why pregnant mothers are affected by U.S. fracking, but he does note that an increase in noise, road traffic, and air quality may affect a mother’s stress levels.

“Now that we know this is happening we’d like to figure out why,” Schwartz says. “Is it air quality? Is it the stress? They’re the two leading candidates in our minds at this point.”

Based upon the health study’s results, Schwartz claims that U.S. policymakers need to consider the risks when they make decisions on future oil wells. He claims that since the first few long term studies have been shown health effects, that “policymakers need to consider findings like these in thinking about how they allow this industry to go forward.”

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