New research from Prof. Michael Greenstone and co-authors finds infants born within about 2 miles of a fracking site are more likely to be classified as low birth weight, but there is no evidence of compromised infant health at further distances.

A new study, released today in the journal Science Advances, finds infants born to mothers living up to about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from a hydraulic fracturing site suffer from poorer health. The largest impacts were to babies born within about a half mile (1 kilometer) of a site, with those babies being 25 percent more likely to be born at a low birth weight—leaving them with a greater risk of infant mortality, ADHD, asthma, lower test scores, lower schooling attainment, and lower earnings.

“Broadly, hydraulic fracturing has reduced energy prices and caused natural gas to greatly decrease the use of coal for power generation in the United States, leading to reductions in air pollution that have very likely improved health throughout the country,” says study co-author Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Professor in Economics, director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), and professor at Harris Public Policy. “But these national benefits depend on local communities allowing hydraulic fracturing and governments around the world have taken very different approaches with some banning it and others embracing. This study provides the first large-scale peer-reviewed evidence of a link between hydraulic fracturing activities and our health, specifically the health of babies.”

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