Living within a 10-mile radius of fracking sites may increase the risk of congenital heart defects in babies by up to 30 percent, according to a new study led by researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health. Al Jazeera America reports: The use of fracking, a gas-extraction process through which sand, water and chemicals are pumped into the ground to release trapped fuel deposits, has increased significantly in the United States over the past decade. Five years ago, the United States produced 5 million barrels of oil per day; today, it's 7.4 million, thanks largely to fracking. Supporters of the industry say it creates jobs and spurs the economy, while critics say its development is largely unregulated and that too little is known about pollution and health risks. The report by the Colorado School of Public Health, released January 28, gathered evidence from heavily drilled rural Colorado, which has among the highest densities of oil and gas wells in the United States. “What we found was that the risk of congenital heart defects (CHD) increased with greater density of gas wells— ith mothers living in the highest-density areas at greatest risk,” Lisa McKenzie, a research associate at the Colorado School of Public Health and the lead author of the study, told Al Jazeera.The study observed nearly 125,000 births in rural Colorado from 1996 to 2009, and found an association between birth outcomes and maternal residential proximity to natural gas developments. With over 15 million Americans living within a one-mile radius of fracking sites, the findings raise concerns about the safety of the controversial practice.
Danayit Musse is a Spring 2014 editorial intern.