Studies Link Fracking and Birth Defects

Climate change is a global issue that cannot be ignored. Weather patterns are shifting. Summer fires are burning hotter, longer, and closer to cities than before. Droughts are commonplace in many parts of the world. And storms are getting bigger and more frequent — and causing more damage. And much of the change in our climate can be traced to human interventions, including pollution and the release of chemicals from manufacturing, agriculture, and gathering oil and natural gas.

Each year, scientists uncover new ways that climate change is affecting human health — including birth defects caused by environmental factors and toxic chemicals.

Extreme Temperatures Increase Congenital Abnormalities in Infants

The past 10 years have been some of the hottest on record. Climate change has led to longer periods of hot weather in the U.S., even in areas that are typically temperate. The temperature increase has shown affected snow and ice packs, droughts, and increased energy usage as people try to stay cool.

But it is having more wide-ranging effects on our health. A recent study in the Journal of the American Heart Association has shown that pregnant women who are exposed to extreme heat early in their pregnancies are more likely to have a child born with congenital heart defects. As temperatures continue to rise, more women are likely to be exposed to extreme heat, increasing the number of children potentially born with serious heart trouble. The researchers believe these extremes in heat may directly cause fetal cell death, according to the study.

Without work to slow climate change, these extremes in heat may increase, lengthen, and begin to affect more crucial systems in infants’ bodies.

Fracking: Increased Fossil Fuel Production Comes with Foreseeable Consequences

In the past 20 years a once obscure form of fossil fuel extraction has grown to prominence in the United States: Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The rise in popularity of this method has been driven largely by the dual influences of increased demand for (relatively) cleaner burning natural gas and the decreasing productivity of traditional oil wells, which drove oil producers to seek alternative methods of extraction. The rapid expansion of fracking, a process whereby innumerable chemicals are forced into the ground resulting in the release of fossil fuels from shale and rock bed, has in fact resulted in an increased supply of oil and gas. But that has not been without significant cost and consequence.

A foreseeable result of this method of driving toxic chemicals into the ground has been the damage to our water sources, our air, and our soil. For example, a 2016 study by a team of Stanford researchers found fracking byproducts enter underground aquifers and domestic wells in Wyoming, exposing residents to a cocktail of dangerous carcinogens and teratogens. This environmental pollution is harming the most vulnerable members of our communities: it is causing birth defects in our children.

Fracking Chemicals Associated With Dangerous Birth Defects

Ethylene glycol, ethanol, methanol, benzene, and toluene. These are not just some of the chemicals pumped into a fracking well. They are also known teratogens, chemicals that are known to cause birth defects, miscarriage, and infant death.

A 2014 study showed that the infant death rate is higher in areas near fracking sites within 28 days of drilling. It also showed effects on babies while in utero, especially during the critical early weeks of pregnancy, when mothers may not even know they are pregnant and need to take extra care.

A more recent study looked at the specific chemicals used and their effects on infants, including low birth weight, miscarriage, pre-term birth, and defects of the heart, brain, and spine. More than 750 chemicals are added during the fracking process. Many of these potentially hazardous chemicals are released into the environment from the process. These chemicals include neurotoxins, carcinogens, and endocrine disruptors. The effects can be felt by adults living near or working at fracking sites and infants and children exposed in utero.

In this study, the authors also note that the chemicals used and released during fracking are also linked to infertility.

More long-term study is needed to see if reproductive changes are longer-term, such as children potentially born with defects even after the parents are no longer actively exposed to the fracking chemicals.

How We Help Victims of Toxic Exposure

The 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 30 years of combined experience in birth defects litigation in cases involving toxic chemical exposure. We have the resources and experience to fight on behalf of our clients against corporations who put them in danger. Call us to see how we can help you and your family receive justice for birth defects.