A recent study that claims to provide “evidence” fracking is responsible for increased instances of low birth weight has generated some alarmist media coverage, with a Dec. 29 Nevada News Service story being just one example. But a closer look at the study’s numerous flaws reveals that all the scary headlines are unwarranted.

Contrary to what the researchers have claimed, the study provides no causal evidence. The researchers took no actual air measurements and instead speculated that “potential” pollution from fracking was to blame for an observed increase in low birth weight instances near well sites.

In contrast, a recent Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) evaluation based 10,000 air samples near oil and gas development found that, “the risk of harmful health effects is low for residents living [near] oil and gas operations. The CDPHE evaluation also stated that, “All measured air concentrations were below short- and long-term ‘safe’ levels of exposure for non-cancer health effects, even for sensitive populations.”

The birth weight study also failed to control for smoking, alcohol use and drug use, all major causes of low birth weight. And the “elevated” risk of low birth weight found by the researches — eight percent — happens to be the national rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

To be clear, the issue of fracking and public health is one that deserves attention. However, the discussion should be driven by science rather than the sensational click-bait driven headlines this study produced.

Rebecca Simons

Energy In Depth