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      Hydraulic fracturing and infant health: New evidence from Pennsylvania


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          This article investigates the effects of hydraulic fracturing on infant health.


          The development of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is considered the biggest change to the global energy production system in the last half-century. However, several communities have banned fracking because of unresolved concerns about the impact of this process on human health. To evaluate the potential health impacts of fracking, we analyzed records of more than 1.1 million births in Pennsylvania from 2004 to 2013, comparing infants born to mothers living at different distances from active fracking sites and those born both before and after fracking was initiated at each site. We adjusted for fixed maternal determinants of infant health by comparing siblings who were and were not exposed to fracking sites in utero. We found evidence for negative health effects of in utero exposure to fracking sites within 3 km of a mother’s residence, with the largest health impacts seen for in utero exposure within 1 km of fracking sites. Negative health impacts include a greater incidence of low–birth weight babies as well as significant declines in average birth weight and in several other measures of infant health. There is little evidence for health effects at distances beyond 3 km, suggesting that health impacts of fracking are highly local. Informal estimates suggest that about 29,000 of the nearly 4 million annual U.S. births occur within 1 km of an active fracking site and that these births therefore may be at higher risk of poor birth outcomes.

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          Most cited references16

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          Experimental Analysis of Neighborhood Effects

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            Multiple Inference and Gender Differences in the Effects of Early Intervention: A Reevaluation of the Abecedarian, Perry Preschool, and Early Training Projects

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              Impact of shale gas development on regional water quality.

              Unconventional natural gas resources offer an opportunity to access a relatively clean fossil fuel that could potentially lead to energy independence for some countries. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing make the extraction of tightly bound natural gas from shale formations economically feasible. These technologies are not free from environmental risks, however, especially those related to regional water quality, such as gas migration, contaminant transport through induced and natural fractures, wastewater discharge, and accidental spills. We review the current understanding of environmental issues associated with unconventional gas extraction. Improved understanding of the fate and transport of contaminants of concern and increased long-term monitoring and data dissemination will help manage these water-quality risks today and in the future.

                Author and article information

                Sci Adv
                Sci Adv
                Science Advances
                American Association for the Advancement of Science
                December 2017
                13 December 2017
                : 3
                : 12
                : e1603021
                [1 ]Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA.
                [2 ]National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
                [3 ]University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.
                [4 ]University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA.
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author. Email: jcurrie@ 123456princeton.edu
                Author information
                Copyright © 2017 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License 4.0 (CC BY-NC).

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 01 December 2016
                : 15 November 2017
                Funded by: doi http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/100000139, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;
                Award ID: award336573
                Award ID: #EPA G2009-STAR-B1
                Funded by: doi http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/100000870, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation;
                Award ID: award336572
                Research Article
                Research Articles
                SciAdv r-articles
                Environmental Studies
                Environmental Studies
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