Fracking Increases Birth Defect Risks for Pregnant Mothers

Babies born to mothers living near oil and gas production fracking sites are at greater risk of birth defects due to toxic exposure, according to the findings of a recent study.

Published in the journal Environmental Research, the study examines the incidence of birth defects among babies born in Ohio, which experienced a 30-fold increase in natural gas production between 2010 and 2020.

According to the study, the odds of a baby being born with a structural defect are measurably higher when the mother lives within 10 kilometers of unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD), commonly referred to as hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

What is Fracking?

Fracking is a process used to extract natural gas and oil from deep rock formations known as shale. Drilling operators force water, sand and a mix of chemicals into horizontally drilled wells, which causes the shale to crack, releasing natural gas or oil.

What are the Risks of Fracking?

Experts have expressed concerns about the potential health hazards of fracking for people who live near drilling sites, as well as the environmental impact. Their concerns include:

  • Drinking water quality: Hydraulic fracturing fluids used to fracture rock formations contain toxic chemicals that can enter drinking water supplies, posing a risk to human health and the environment.
  • Wastewater: Toxic chemicals found in UOGD wastewater and fracking fluids include heavy metals (such as arsenic, lead and mercury), organic compounds (such as benzene) and other chemicals that are associated with reproductive and developmental abnormalities.
  • Air pollution: Fracking emits pollutants into the air that have been tied to respiratory and cardiovascular health problems. According to one study, there are days when air pollution levels near fracking sites exceed those recommended by the World Health Organization.

About the Environmental Research Study

Out of more than 965,000 live births in Ohio from 2010 to 2017, birth defects were identified in 4,653 babies, according to the study. This represents a higher rate than normal. The study found that babies born to mothers who live within a 10-kilometer radius of a fracking site had greater odds of being born with certain birth defects. The risk of neural tube defects increased by almost 60%, while the risk of spina bifida and limb reduction defects doubled.

There was an even higher chance of birth defects among babies whose mothers live within five kilometers of a fracking site when exposure occurred during the first trimester of pregnancy. The study also noted that the highest risk is associated with exposure to toxic chemicals from contaminated drinking water.

The study published in Environmental Research is one of several examining the link between residential proximity to fracking sites and the presence of certain birth defects. The most common birth defects reported in the studies are congenital heart and neural tube defects.

The researchers measured exposure based on the proximity of pregnant women to active unconventional oil and gas wells, along with a metric that measured exposure to drinking water.

How We Help Victims of Toxic ExposureThe attorneys of our birth defects victims’ alliance understand the pain that families face when coping with life-altering birth defects—and the frustration of knowing they could have been prevented. Our team has over 40 years of combined experience in birth defects litigation in cases involving semiconductor and electronics manufacturing, pesticides, and energy production. We have the resources and experience to fight on behalf of our clients against corporations that put them in danger. Contact us to see how we can help you and your family receive justice for birth defects.