Want a job that kills babies? New Study in Pennsylvania: Fracking strongly related to increased mortality in young babies – Polluted well water is likely cause

PDF of the complete study: There’s a World Going on Underground
—Infant Mortality and Fracking in Pennsylvania

Fracking kills newborn babies – polluted water likely cause by Oliver Tickell, 25th April 2017, The Ecologist

A new study in Pennsylvania, USA shows that fracking is strongly related to increased mortality in young babies.

The effect is most pronounced in counties with many drinking water wells indicating that contamination by ‘produced water’ from fracking is a likely cause. Radioactive pollution with uranium, thorium and radium is a ‘plausible explanation’ for the excess deaths.

These results raise serious questions about potential health hazards of fracking, especially since the fetus and infant are most susceptible to environmental pollutants. This is a public health issue which should be investigated!

A new study of Pennsylvania counties published today in the Journal of Environmental Protection shows for the first time that contamination from fracking kills babies.

The Marcellus shale area of Pennsylvania was one of the first regions where novel gas drilling involving hydraulic fracturing of sub-surface rock, now termed ‘fracking’, was carried out.

The epidemiological study by Christopher Busby and Joseph Mangano examines early infant deaths 0-28 days before and after the drilling of fracking wells, using official data from the US Centre for Disease Control to compare the immediate post-fracking four year period 2007-2010 with the pre-fracking four-year period 2003-2006.

Results showed a statistically significant 29% excess risk of dying age 0-28 days in the ten heavily fracked counties of Pennsylvania during the four-year period following the development of fracking gas wells. Over the same period, the State rate declined by 2%.

They conclude:

“There were about 50 more babies died in these 10 counties than would have been predicted if the rate had been the same over the period as all of Pennsylvania, where the incidence rate fell over the same period.”

Radioactive water pollution to blame?

The Marcellus shale beneath Pennsylvania was one of the first areas where fracking began. Only 44 fracking wells were drilled before 2007, while 2,864 were drilled in 2007-2010.

The cause of the excess mortality is not proven in the study, however the authors point out that the fracking production process releases naturally occurring radioactive materials from shale strata which then contaminate groundwater.

These include radium, uranium, thorium and radon, an intensely radioactive gas which decays into radioactive ‘daughters’ with a half life of under four days. And as the authors write, fracking “involves the explosive destruction of large volumes of underground gas and oil retaining rocks and the pumping down of large amounts of what is termed ‘produced water’ which initially contains various chemical and sand additives.

“This produced water and backflow returns to the surface with a high load of dissolved and suspended solids including naturally occurring radioactive elements … The contaminated water has to be safely disposed of but this is often associated with violations of legal disposal constraints.”

Baby mortality related to exposure through water wells

In the five heavily-fracked counties in the northeast part of the state (Susquehanna, Bradford, Wyoming, Lycoming and Tioga), the number of deaths from 2003-2006 vs. 2007-2010 climbed from 36 to 60, a statistically significant rate increase of 66%.

The rate in the five counties in southwest Pennsylvania (Washington, Westmoreland, Greene, Butler and Fayette) rose 18%, from 157 to 178 deaths, though this increase was not statistically significant.

This divergence in relative risk between the heavily fracked NE and SW counties was initially perplexing, however the authors noticed the higher dependence on private water wells (potentially contaminated with frackiing fluids) for drinking water and other needs in the first region compared to the second.

In the NE group of counties , the number of water wells per birth ranged from 4.9 to 13.5, compared to 1.1 to 3 in the SW group of countries. Their chart of Relative Risk for early infant mortality after fracking (see image above right) plotted against ‘exposure’ defined as ‘water wells per birth’ on a county by county basis produced a straight-line graph – indicated a strong relation to increased mortality and exposure to groundwater.


Water wells per birth

Violations per birth


North East Group





















All North East




South West Group





















All South West




Table: Water wells per birth and violations per annual birth in highly fracked Pennsylvania Counties.

They conclude: “The results therefore seem to support the suggestion that the vector for the effect is exposure to drinking water from private wells. This is a mechanistically plausible explanation. However the findings do not prove such a suggestion. We may examine other possible explanations for possible health effects which have been advanced.”

While radioactive pollution is carefully examined, the authors acknowledge alternatives including “the existence of chemical contaminants in the produced water” which they consider a “possible but unknown factor.”

Serious questions raised over health hazards of fracking

“A major component of early infant mortality is congenital malformation, e.g., heart, neurological, and kidney defects. These are known to be caused by exposures to Radium and Uranium in drinking water”, said Christopher Busby.

“Infant death rates were significantly high in highly-fracked counties in northeast Pennsylvania, those with the greatest density of private water wells, suggesting it is drinking water contamination driving the effect.”

Joseph Mangano added: “These results raise serious questions about potential health hazards of fracking, especially since the fetus and infant are most susceptible to environmental pollutants. This is a public health issue which should be investigated wherever fracking is being carried out or proposed.”

The result is expected to have significant insurance, investment, economic and downstream political implications in the US and other countries. [Emphasis added]

The study:There’s a world going on underground-infant mortality and fracking in Pennsylvania‘ is by Busby C C and Mangano J J and published in the Journal of Environmental Protection 8(4) 2017. doi: 10.4236/jep.2017.84028

Dr Busby is the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk www.ecrr.eu and is Scientific Director of Environmental Research SIA, based in the Latvian National Academy of Sciences, Riga, Latvia. Busby’s CV can be found here.

[Refer also to:

2017 04 19: Amazing New study: Hazardous Chemicals Go Unregulated in Routine Oil and Gas Operations. Chemical regulations that govern hydraulic fracturing do not apply to numerous other uses of same chemicals on oil & gas development fields. (The toxic secrecy is much worse in Canada)

2017 03 31: Alberta children at risk from deadly radon gas in their schools? Radon testing done in schools across Canada to survey for cancer risk, only 1% of Alberta schools tested. What’s Alberta hiding? Too many decades of fracking, waste injection & enhanced oil recovery release too much radon in Alberta?

2017 01 25: DEP Urges Pennsylvanians to Test Homes for Radon; PA schools aren’t required to test for lead or radon, so many Pittsburgh-area districts don’t

2016 12 13: Environmental causes of childhood cancers ‘grossly underestimated.’ In Canada, toxic chemicals used by oil and gas industry are exempt under CEPA (1999)

2016 10 13: Didsbury Hell: Do ordinary Albertans pay to repair oil & gas industry damages to public roads caused by hauling hundreds of thousands of tonnes of contaminated oilfield waste? Radioactive? Toxic with secret chemicals, carcinogens, heavy metals, BTEX? Hold your breath if you live nearby.

2016 06 16: The Most Horrific Frac Deregulation Yet? US EPA preparing for “widespread” radioactive frac waste contamination of drinking water or because it’s already happened? EPA’s proposed “protective regulation” to allow dramatically higher levels of radioactivity in drinking water THIS BEFORE TRUMP APPOINTED SCOTT PRUITT TO CASTRATE THE EPA.

2016 06 15: UK fracking firm plans to dump likely radioactive frac waste into the sea, Ineos company emails reveal huge amounts of frac waste need to be dumped, Legal update from Tina Louise, Opposition to UK fracking plans swells, Local democracy at stake

2016 06 14: Elevated Cancer risks surround oil & gas drilling. Fracking is bad for your health says Israel Health Ministry official; Frac flowback stage causes greatest air pollution; WORLD-WIDE STUDY: One in three strokes caused by air pollution

2016 06 14: Alberta Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd deflecting the known frac risks and harms? Says “fracking affects regions differently,” wants to “wait until we get the science going” before making any decisions even though the science on fracing is already in

2016 06 12: Meet Alberta’s Radioactive Ranchers: Nielle and Howard Hawkwood. Timing is everything. Why did AIMCo (ATB/Heritage Fund connected) announce $200 Million (bailout?) investment in “Quite leveraged” Calfrac on same day NDP Rural Caucus try to get Nielle Hawkwood’s frac ban resolution on floor of NDP’s Annual Convention?

2016 05 12: Another New Peer-Reviewed, Published Frac Health Harm Review: Harmful chemicals used in, produced by unconventional oil & gas pose serious threat to infants & children

2016 02 24: Oil & gas & frac companies poisoning Alberta families, injecting toxic chemicals into community air, on roads & food land & in drinking water aquifers Go Free while Edmonton dry cleaner first person in Canada to get jail sentence for using dangerous chemicals

2015 01 04: Elaine Hill interview on her research that was attacked by frac industry; One of the first scholarly explorations of health harm caused by fracing

2015 01 15: Sounds like Alberta (Again)! Utah energy boomtown turns on midwife who raised concerns over apparent spike in infant deaths: “Could the deaths be tied to the oil industry, the region’s economic powerhouse?”

2015 04 08: “It looks like fracking has unearthed an unbargained for and serious cancer risk in peoples’ homes.” John Hopkins study links radon levels in Pennsylvania homes to fracking: “These findings worry us”

2015 04 13: Fracking criticism spreads, even in Alberta and Texas, Canadian, U.S. studies raise concerns that chemicals used in process make people sick

2015 06 19: Fracking in Utah. What’s Killing the Babies of Vernal: A Fracking Boomtown, a spike in stillborn deaths and a gusher of unanswered questions

2015 07 02 Rolling Stone, What's killing the babies of Vernal, Utah

2015 07 02 Rolling Stone, What's killing the babies of Vernal, Utah, RIP

2015 06 Rolling Stone, What's killing the babies of Vernal, Utah, $600 billion in profits for oil and gas

2015 06 Rolling Stone, What's killing the babies of Vernal, Utah, what we know, the chemicals pass through to the baby

2015 06 03: Another New Study Showing Frac Harm: ‘Fracking’ Linked to Low Birth Weight Babies, Pregnant women who live near multiple natural gas wells tend to have smaller infants

2015 07 13: “Keeping the names of the chemicals secret is preposterous” American Medical Association blasts frac chemical secrets, calls for full public disclosure and water monitoring

2015 10 10: Another study showing serious frac harm: Women near frac sites 40 per cent more likely to give birth prematurely, and 30 per cent increase in chance that an obstetrician had labeled their pregnancy high-risk

2015 07 27: Pennsylvania Study Links Fracking to Health Hazards in Fetuses, Infants, Young Children: 35.1% more cancer in children ages zero to four in heavily frac’d counties. Compare to AER’s belittling, dismissive health study in the Lochend

2014 11 28: Fracking might be as damaging as thalidomide, tobacco and asbestos, UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser warns in new report: “In all these and many other cases, delayed recognition of adverse effects incurred not only serious environmental or health impacts, but massive expense”

2014 08 19: Connecticut: Three Year Fracking Waste Ban Signed into Law; Meanwhile, Michigan takes Pennsylvania’s Radioactive Frac Waste

2014 05 21: In Utah Oil Boom Town, Dramatic Spike in Infant Deaths after Drilling and Fracing Raises Questions; Industry Funded Study Intends to Leave Out 2013 – the Year with Most Infant Deaths

2014 05 09: Public Health Experts Call on Governor to Study Fracking’s Impact on Cancer-Causing Radon Levels Before Making a Decision On Whether to Allow Drilling

2014 04 30: Des malformations congénitales liées à l’extraction du gaz naturel; 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

2014 04 29: Dual Trucking suspected of dumping radioactive Bakken frac waste in Montana ordered to stop, but doesn’t, says waste will go to Canada

2014 04 03: Colorado Investigates a Spike in Fetal Abnormalities Near Natural Gas Drilling Site, A prevalence of anomalies such as low birth weight and congenital heart defects are found within a 10 mile radius of a concentration of gas wells

2014 03 11: Santos CBM in NSW Australia contaminates aquifer with uranium at 20 times the safe drinking water levels; Regulator does not test for thorium, radon and radium! Thorium and radon are known to cause lung cancer.

2014 02 25: North Dakota frac’d Bakken radioactive oilfield waste spilling out of trailers parked on rural land near Watford City: When the filter socks are “that orange color, we know they’re hot”

2014 02 19: As Fracking Booms, Growing Concerns About Toxic, Radioactive Wastewater

2014 02 05: Hocus Pocus! Decades too late: Canadian regulator, the National Energy Board, asks for fracking fluid info, but not drilling additives which can be more toxic than frac chemicals DID THE NEB GET THE DETAILS THEY REQUESTED. PLEASE SOME ONE, FOIP FOR IT ]

2014 02 01: OILFIELD WASTE MUST WATCH: Julie Weatherington-Rice, PhD Soil Science, Drilling Radioactive Waste Alert Public Forum

2014 01 08: Pittsburgh stands against fracking but toxic chemicals and radioactive frac wastes don’t respect city ordinances

2014 01 05: New Study Shows Fracking Is Bad for Babies, Research builds on and affirms research in Pennsylvania by Elaine L. Hill

2013 12 22: BP, Chevron Accused Of Illegally Dumping Toxic Radioactive Drilling Waste Into Louisiana Water

2013 11 08: Elaine Hill: The Impact of Oil and Gas Extraction on Infant Health in Colorado

2013 10 11: Pennsylvania regulator allows radioactive, toxic drilling waste dumped as fill in city

2013 04 02: Radioactive Drilling Waste Shipped to Landfills Raises Concerns

2013 03 09: Radon gas leaks in coalbed methane fields in Australia spark call for probe

2012 11 29: Triangle Petroleum fracking radioactive waste water cleanup target missed in Nova Scotia

2012 10 19: Radioactive Frac Wastewater worries in Windsor

“You don’t put untreated fracking waste into sewage treatment plants,” the Minasville resident said. “Even if you don’t know to look at radioactivity, there’s huge questions about the chemicals.” … “For us, it’s even worse. We have these ponds sitting here, we still have most of the water in an unprotected location and nobody’s doing anything.”

2012 07 19: Link Between Low Birth Weight and Fracking, Says New Research

2006 10 02: New Brunswick Spill site is free of radioactive waste, says Corridor Resources

A resource company says it has cleaned up 3,000 litres of material containing a low-level radioactive substance it spilled while drilling for natural gas in the Sussex area in August.

The material that Corridor spilled is called frac sand and isused to fill rock fissures when drilling for natural gas. Frac sand contains some low-level radioactive isotopes.

The spill occurred Aug. 23 at a drill site on land belonging to a family in Penobsquis, said Corridor president Norm Miller.

“It was cleaned up immediately under strict supervision by the Environment Department and no risk of any significance to any personnel,” said Miller.

The company buried the material temporarily on another landowner’s property, he said.

According to federal regulations, the frac sand must be buried under at least 30 centimetres of soil to be neutralized.

Woman says waste dumped in open pit

However, Beth Nixon,who lives nearby, said the company didn’t dispose of the frac sand properly, and instead threw it into an existing open pit.

“It’s not buried because I’ve never seen this pit any deeper,” she said. …

An official with the Department of Environment said it has never had to deal with a radioactive spill before. It has handed the case over to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

A spokesman for the commission said the company stated that it had disposed of the substance properly, but it hasn’t verified this claim by visiting the site. [Emphasis added]

This entry was posted in Global Frac News. Bookmark the permalink.