Birth Outcomes and Maternal Residential Proximity to Natural Gas Development in Rural Colorado by Lisa M. McKenzie, Ruixin Guo, Roxana Z. Witter, David A. Savitz, Lee S. Newman, and John L. Adgate, April 2014
Des malformations congénitales liées à l’extraction du gaz naturel Translation of Nikiforuk’s article below by Les Ami(s) du Richelieu, February 10, 2014
Birth Defects Linked to Natural Gas Mining, Various US studies probe how fracking pollution, chemicals affect the unborn by Andrew Nikiforuk, February 4, 2014, TheTyee.ca
Limited study points to birth defects near wells by Gayathri Vaidyanathan, February 3, 2014, E&E News
Pregnant women living in areas with a large number of oil and gas wells within 10 miles of their home are more likely to give birth to children with congenital heart defects compared with women not exposed to any wells, according to a limited new study. But the study does not prove that living near gas wells causes birth defects, cautioned Lisa McKenzie, co-author of the study and a researcher at the Colorado School of Public Health. “We need to do more studies on this to find out more,” she said.
The study was published last week in Environmental Health Perspectives. The study was done in rural Colorado, in 57 counties with little industrial and transportation pollution. It excluded urban centers such as Denver, Fort Collins and Boulder. The scientists examined the health records of almost 125,000 children born between 1996 and 2009. They then correlated the mother’s residence with the number of oil or gas wells within 10 miles. Among the health conditions they examined were heart and neural defects, and effects on birth weight.
The scientists found that mothers who lived close to 125 or more wells were 30 percent more likely to give birth to children with congenital heart defects compared with mothers who did not live close to wells.
But the scientists did not find a strong link between gas drilling and other health conditions, such as neural defects. And counterintuitively, the scientists found that mothers who lived closer to wells were less likely to give birth prematurely or to have low-birth-weight babies. These unexpected results make the study results, including the ones on heart defects, difficult to interpret, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment cautioned. Many causes, such as genes or other forms of pollution, can lead to birth defects, and these and other causes were not examined by the scientists. “With regard to this particular study, people should not rush to judgment,” said Larry Wolk, chief medical officer and executive director of the department. “As chief medical officer, I would tell pregnant women and mothers who live, or who at the time of their pregnancy lived, in proximity to a gas well not to rely on this study as an explanation of why one of their children might have had a birth defect,” he said. “Many factors known to contribute to birth defects were ignored in this study.” McKenzie agreed with this interpretation and stressed that the study was preliminary. “This study is not sufficient to say that living near a gas well caused a health defect,” she said. [Emphasis added]
New study links fracking to birth defects in heavily drilled Colorado, Risks of some birth defects increased as much as 30 percent in mothers who lived near oil and gas wells by Renee Lewis, January 30, 2014, Aljazeera
Living near hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — sites may increase the risk of some birth defects by as much as 30 percent, a new study suggests. In the U.S., more than 15 million people now live within a mile of a well. … The report by the Colorado School of Public Health, released Jan. 28, gathered evidence from heavily drilled rural Colorado, which has among the highest densities of oil and gas wells in the U.S. “What we found was that the risk of congenital heart defects (CHD) increased with greater density of gas wells — with mothers living in the highest-density areas at greatest risk,” Lisa McKenzie, a research associate at the Colorado School of Public Health and lead author of the study, told Al Jazeera. The study examined links between the mother’s residential proximity to natural gas wells and birth defects in a study of more than 124,842 births between 1996 and 2009 in rural Colorado. The study found that “births to mothers in the most exposed (areas with over 125 wells per mile) had a 30 percent greater prevalence of CHDs than births to mothers with no wells in a 10-mile radius of their residence.”
Many pollutants that are suspected to increase risks of birth defects are emitted into the air during development and production of natural gas, the report said. McKenzie added that the study is not conclusive, but found an “association.” But critics of the oil and gas industry were not so cautious about drawing conclusions from the evidence. “This study suggests that if you want to have a healthy baby and you live near a fracking site, move,” Gary Wockner, of Colorado’s Clean Water Action, said. Colorado has more than 50,000 active oil and gas wells — including more than 20,000 in northern Weld County. Wockner told Al Jazeera the industry predicts another 50,000 wells will be added over the next 15 to 20 years in the state, “so the public health impact is of extreme concern.”
“The shocking story here is that fracking has moved forward with virtually no regulation and no study of public health impacts.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting an in-depth study on the potential impact of fracking on water resources, the findings of which are expected to be released late this year. While the EPA continues its study, though, concern remains high. More than 90 percent of Colorado’s wells are fracked, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s (COGA) website, raising concerns about air and water pollution that could have harmful effects on nearby residents.
A study by The Associated Press from early January found that water pollution in four U.S. states was linked to oil and gas wells and concluded that pollution was more widespread than the industry admits. A December study by the University of Missouri showed that fracking fluids could disrupt human hormones and lead to infertility, cancer and other health problems.
COGA insists fracking is “safe” on its website, and follows that with a list of studies arguing the controversial practice does not have a serious impact on human health. Doug Flanders, a spokesman for COGA, told Al Jazeera in an email that the study contained “many deficiencies.”
“For example, if you look beyond the author’s narrative and study the actual data and tables she used — you will see that in half the cases there was a decreased risk of pre-term birth the closer mothers lived near (wells) which shows the study’s problems,” Flanders said, referring to the increased likelihood McKenzie and the other scientists found between proximity to wells and having a baby at full-term. Mark Salley, communications director at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, told Al Jazeera that the state’s oil and gas rules are the “most stringent in the country when it comes to protecting public health and the environment.” He added Colorado is currently updating its rules to further minimize air emissions from industry activities. “We agree there is public concern about the effects of oil and gas operations on health, including birth outcomes,” Salley said. “Overall, we feel this study highlights interesting areas for further research and investigation, but is not conclusive in itself.”
Still, despite industry assurances, many Coloradans are fighting back against drilling in their state. “Here in Colorado, we have cities with populations of over 400,000 people effectively banning fracking,” Wockner said. “We are basically creating frack-free zones where public health and property is better protected from this kind of dangerous industrial threat.”
There are five cities in Colorado that have banned or placed long-term moratoriums on drilling within municipal boundaries after wells popped up near schools and backyards, Wockner said. COGA responded by filing a lawsuit against the towns of Lafayette and Fort Collins, Colo., which passed ordinances prohibiting fracking. [Emphasis added]
Environmental toxins linked to heart defects, American Heart Association Meeting Report: Abstract 15332 (Hall F, Core 2, Poster Board: 2092) News Release by American Heart Association, November 17, 2013
Study Highlight: There was a correlation between yearly rates of congenital heart defects in children and yearly emissions of some industrial pollutants in Alberta, Canada.
Children’s congenital heart defects may be associated with their mothers’ exposure to specific mixtures of environmental toxins during pregnancy, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2013. Congenital heart defects occur when the heart or blood vessels near the heart don’t develop normally before birth. Defects may be caused by chromosomal abnormalities, but the cause is unknown in most cases. Researchers examined patterns of congenital heart defects incidence and presence of environmental toxicants in Alberta, Canada. The ongoing research seeks to determine if pregnant women’s proximity to organic compounds and metals emitted in the air impacts the risk of heart defects in their children. “Although still in the early stage, this research suggests some chemical emissions — particularly, industrial air emissions — may be linked to heart abnormalities that develop while the heart is forming in the womb,” said lead researcher Deliwe P. Ngwezi, M.D., a Ph.D., student and research fellow in pediatric cardiology at the University of Alberta in Canada.
The study is based on congenital heart defects diagnosed in 2004-11 and chemical emissions recorded by a Canadian agency tracking pollutants. Researchers looked at three chemical categories, but only one group showed a strong correlation with rates of congenital heart defects. According to Ngwezi, the group of chemicals consists of a mixture of organic compounds and metals namely: benzene, butadiene, carbon disulphide, chloroform, ethylene oxide, hexachlorobenzene, tetrachloroethane, methanol, sulphur dioxide, toluene, lead, mercury and cadmium.
The heart defect decreases were mainly associated with heart defects resulting in holes between the upper and lower heart chambers (septal defects) and malformations of the cardiac outflow tracts (conotruncal defects), according to Ngwezi. “For now, consumers and healthcare providers should be educated about the potential toll of pollutants on the developing heart,” she said. “As we have observed in the preliminary results, when the emissions decrease, the rates of congenital heart defects also decrease.”
This study, she said, should draw attention to the increasing evidence about the impact of environmental pollution on birth defects. Limitations of the study include that researchers’ observations were made at a group level, not according to individual risk and the self-reported industry data which is monitored and collected annually by government, according to Ngwezi.
Co-authors are Lisa K. Hornberger, M.D.; Brad Saretsky, B.Sc.; Sujata Chandra, M.D., M.Sc.; Deborah Fruitman, M.D., F.R.C.P.C.; and Alvaro Osornio-Vargas, M.D., Ph.D. Author disclosures are on the abstract. The study was funded by the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute, University of Alberta; Hamilton-Naki Foundation of South Africa; and an Emerging Research Team Grant from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and Alberta Health Services. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
Slide above by Larysa Dyrszka MD, September 2013
Positive association observed between greater density, proximity of natural gas wells within 10-mile radius of maternal residence and prevalence of congenital heart defects and possibly neural tube defects
Hormone-disrupting chemicals found in ground and surface water at fracking sites, Peer reviewed study of fracking sites in Garfield County Colorado finds chemicals linked to infertility, birth defects and cancer
First Study of Its Kind Detects 44 Hazardous Air Pollutants at Gas Drilling Sites, With gas wells in some states being drilled near schools and homes, scientists see a need for better chemical disclosure laws and follow-up research
Burning Questions: Quarantined Cows Give Birth to Dead Calves In late April 2010, drilling waste water from a large storage pond leaked through its plastic liner and flowed onto a cow pasture in Shippen Township, Tioga County. Farmers Don and Carol Johnson found the leak, along with the hoof prints of 28 beef cattle who had wandered through and possibly drank the contaminated water. The waste water came from a well that had been fracked on their property by East Resources. When tested, the water contained chloride, iron, sulfate, barium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, strontium and calcium. The spill killed all vegetation in an area 30 feet by 40 feet. [Emphasis added]