Public health problems associated with drilling and fracking include poor birth outcomes, reproductive and respiratory impacts, cancer risks, and occupational health and safety problems.
Studies of mothers living near oil and gas extraction operations consistently find impairments to infant health, including elevated risks for low birth weight and preterm birth. A 2017 study that examined birth certificates for all 1.1 million infants born in Pennsylvania found poorer indicators of infant health and significantly lower birth weights among babies born to mothers living near fracking sites. A 2015 Pennsylvania study found a 40 percent increase in the risk of preterm birth among infants born to mothers who lived nearby active drilling and fracking sites. A 2014 Colorado study found elevated incidence of neural tube defects and congenital heart defects. New studies in Texas and Colorado likewise found associations with infant deaths, high-risk pregnancies, and low birth weight. A 2017 pilot study in British Columbia found elevated levels of muconic acid—a marker of benzene exposure—in the urine of pregnant women living near fracking sites.