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Congenital Heart Defects Linked to Area Fracking Operations: Study

Researchers from the University of Colorado say children born in near fracking operations face a higher risk of congenital heart defects (CHDs).

The findings were published online in the journal Environment International on July 18, indicating that higher rates of pulmonary artery and valve defects, aortic defects and other heart malformations at rates 40% to 70% higher among children near oil and gas extraction operations in Colorado.

More commonly referred to as “fracking”, hydraulic fracturing involves drilling and fracturing of shale rock to release oil and gas. Fracking results in the injection of water, sand and chemicals into wells at high pressures, to crack the surrounding rock, thus releasing the natural gas underground and allowing it to flow to the head of the well.

Problems from fracking have previously been linked to negative environmental effects to the surrounding communities, due the impact on drinking water, as well as increased dust and exhaust from drilling rigs, compressors and the transportation of the water, sand and chemicals. The process has also been linked to increased earthquake activity. The extent of the potential harm to humans living close to these fracking sites has yet to be determined.

In this latest study, researchers conducted a nested case-control study of 3,324 infants born in Colorado between 2005 and 2011. They looked at monthly intensities of oil and gas activity at the mother’s residences from three months before they got pregnant through the second month of their pregnancy.

Overall, they determined that congenital heart defects were 40% to 70% times more likely among medium and high intensity fracking exposure groups, respectively.

“This study provides further evidence of a positive association between maternal proximity to O&G well site activities and several types of CHDs, particularly in rural areas,” the researchers concluded.

Fracking Health Problems

Fracking has become an increasing concern to environmentalists, lawmakers, and local communities, as dozens of plaintiffs file lawsuits against the drilling companies for contaminating their local wells and exposing them to toxic chemicals that damaged their health and lowered their property values.

A number of fracking lawsuits have been filed in the United States, with one of the most recent verdicts issued in March 2017 by a federal jury in Pennsylvania that awarded two families in excess of $4.2 million in damages over fracking tainting their drinking water. The two families were the last of more than 40 families in the Dimock, Pennsylvania area to resolve lawsuits over fracking problems.

Similar cases have been filed in Texas, which is another popular state for fracking. In 2014 a family was awarded $2.9 million in damages due to the drilling company creating a public nuisance from fracking that caused nearly two dozen wells to become contaminated with toxic chemicals.

Fracking operations also face an increasing number of lawsuits over earthquakes in Oklahoma and other states. Recent research has linked fracking wells to an unprecedented increase in powerful earthquakes across the South and Midwest. U.S. government geologists now say that Oklahoma suffers more earthquakes than California, due entirely to fracking and oil and gas wastewater disposal wells.

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