A new paper from a seasoned researcher on the impacts of fracking on health finds an increase in congenital heart defects associated with exposure to oil and wells in the first two months of pregnancy.
Lisa McKenzie wrote her first paper in 2014 and found the association but returned to the examination of the statistics and renewed scrutiny of the distance from the wells and the activity of the wells. She also looked at exposure during the first 2 months of the pregnancy.
What she found was that babies who had been most exposed to the oil and gas wells in their first 2 months of life in the womb had between a 40% and 70% increased chance of having a heart abnormality when compared to those in the study with the least exposure.
The heart develops early in pregnancy so the early exposure can cause defects during this crucial time.
Most people would not be comfortable with an industrial process capable of doing such harm to an unborn baby. It will be the same here in the UK. We know that the, much praised, offshore rigs and gas fields leak huge amounts of gas to the air and that the old unused wells leak at the level of the sea bed. We have seen how recent drilling and test fracking onshore have resulted in leaks and venting of significant amounts of ‘natural’ gas. This contains not only the climate damaging methane but also a variety of other gases that cause ill-health and can contain radioactive elements. We cannot say that regulation and engineering will protect us as we have seen that it is a real and present problem. One easy way to reduce the risk would be to site the well a long distance from homes and schools. Both UK Industry and Government resist this despite the ability to drill up to five miles sideways to access the sweet-spots and argue instead for no pre-set minimum distance from pregnant women and children.
As the Conservative Environment Network manifesto rightly says – ‘fracking is woefully unpopular’. It might have added that it is remarkable harmful to human health also.
Link to the paper https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2019.104949
CEN manifesto see p22 https://www.cen.uk.com/manifesto
For a wide ranging look at health impacts from fracking
and note also the letter from Dr Jerome Paulson with link on the opening page.