New research from the Center for Environmental Health shows additional evidence that unconventional oil and gas (UOG), such as fracking, is not only harmful to humans, but especially hazardous to vulnerable populations, such as newborns, children and the elderly.
The new research was published this week in Reviews on Environmental Health. The study examined five particular air and water pollutants that are used in or byproducts of UOG development and operations: heavy metals, particulate matter, polypolycyclic aromatic hydrobcarbons, BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes), and endocrine disrupting compounds.
Researchers discovered something alarming: early life exposure to these substances is linked to potentially permanent learning and neuropsychological deficits, neurodevelopmental disorders and neurological birth defects:
“Given the profound sensitivity of the developing brain and central nervous system, it is reasonable to conclude that young children who experience frequent exposure to these pollutants are at particularly high risk for chronic neurological diseases.”
This is the first study to focus on the UOG industry’s effects on infants and children, particularly those that live near fracking sites.
According to Ellen Webb, lead author of the study, “It’s only reasonable to conclude that young children with frequent exposure to these pollutants would be at high risk for neurological diseases.”
Authors of the study warn that the 17.6 Americans that live within one mile of an active oil or gas well can suffer increased exposure to elevated concentrations of air and water pollutants. They suggest a setback of at least one mile between drilling sites and areas where infants and children live or spend a significant amount of time. They also suggest more research on the effects of long term exposure on human health, mandatory testing of chemicals used on the sites, and transparency of chemicals used in UOG.