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Medicine Stats

Study Finds Higher Rates of Premature Birth Near Fracking Sites (jhsph.edu) 131

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have published a study (abstract) noting that pregnant women are more likely to give birth prematurely if they live close to fracking sites. The researchers used data from 40 counties in Pennsylvania, in which 10,946 babies were born between January 2009 and January 2013. They compared the data with the fast spread of fracking sites across the state — thousands have been built since 2006.

"The researchers found that living in the most active quartile of drilling and production activity was associated with a 40 percent increase in the likelihood of a woman giving birth before 37 weeks of gestation (considered pre-term) and a 30 percent increase in the chance that an obstetrician had labeled their pregnancy "high-risk," a designation that can include factors such as elevated blood pressure or excessive weight gain during pregnancy. When looking at all of the pregnancies in the study, 11 percent of babies were born preterm, with the majority (79 percent) born between 32 and 36 weeks."

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Study Finds Higher Rates of Premature Birth Near Fracking Sites

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why are we letting business men kill civilians? Civil war is coming.
    • Because profit. Duh.

    • Why are we letting sensational news articles get in the way of rational discussion and though.
      Areas where there is a lot of Fracking, are also areas where they are often More Remote, and have a poorer population. So they may not be available to proper health care.

      Now the real question is Why isn't there serious study of the environmental impact of fracking. Not just from the oil companies, and not just from groups who have a tendency to be environmental extremist. There are enough areas now to measure wat

      • by Ranbot ( 2648297 )

        ...Now the real question is Why isn't there serious study of the environmental impact of fracking. Not just from the oil companies, and not just from groups who have a tendency to be environmental extremist. There are enough areas now to measure water quality and other factors and make a good measurements on what pollutants are out there.

        Just a couple month ago the USEPA completed a multi-year study of fracking in several areas of the US, which found no risk to groundwater quality. Anti-frackers wrote it off that study claiming the gov't is paid off by the gas companies. Link to USEPA page: http://www2.epa.gov/hfstudy [epa.gov]

        The media doesn't help because creating sensationalist news articles is easier and more profitable than attempting to accurately explain complex geology, petroleum engineering techniques, contaminate migration, geochemistry, a

  • by Razed By TV ( 730353 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @09:53AM (#50698685)
    I'm not a shill for the fracking industry. However, a question comes to my mind: Is it possible that it is not the fracking itself, but the stress of knowing that you live near the fracking?

    I wonder if they could model this with mice just to get a little more info on the effects of fracking pollutants.
    • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @10:00AM (#50698711)
      Or could it be the general socioeconomic factors prevalent in these same areas?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Wasn't fracking supposed to bring jobs and prosperity to the area?

        • Wasn't fracking supposed to bring jobs and prosperity to the area?

          I good question if you assume the benefits from a health standpoint are realized in a very short period of time, and they are seen mostly in the limited area of the study. I personally think those would be a stupid assumptions, but I guess you just though it was clever.

        • Not all of those areas where the oil boom is occurring were terribly high up the socioeconomic ladder before the boom started (and some were still recovering from when oil prices tanked in the 80s and things collapsed) and suddenly giving someone who's been poor a large amount of money doesn't make them a wise investor.

          You also get a lot of people coming in from outside the area, so there's not always a lot of sense of community (sometimes the influx of money increases the rent so much that the locals ar
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by _Sharp'r_ ( 649297 )

        Exactly. What they've done is managed to replicate this study that socioeconomic factors impact premature births [google.com] by finding something that correlates with low socioeconomic status and then not adjusting for it.

        In the same manner, you could do a study that receiving welfare or jobless benefits causes premature births, or not having a second car causes premature births, or living near railroad track causes premature births, etc.... basically anything which also correlates with low income/living in the poorer

        • by Anonymous Coward

          They controlled for SES and other such variables. It's written in the abstract that you quote. That's why you do multilinear regression, for fuck's sake. What makes you think that your armchair bullshit analysis that you pull out of your giant gaping arsehole is in any way equivalent to people who spent years working on this? Do you seriously think that these researchers don't know how to correct for other such factors?

        • Exactly. What they've done is managed to replicate this study that socioeconomic factors impact premature births by finding something that correlates with low socioeconomic status and then not adjusting for it.

          You conveniently left out the part of the abstract when it says they controlled for "potential confounding variables," which usually includes income and such.

          (Note that I've already posted a detailed comment that points out various potential questions we should raise about this analysis. BUT, I'd say it's highly likely that the researchers DID control for socioeconomic factors -- unfortunately I can't be certain because of the paywall -- but basically all studies of this sort usually do. If they didn't,

      • Or could it be the general socioeconomic factors prevalent in these same areas?

        I was wondering the same thing. There usually isn't a lot of fracking in urban affluent areas. It tends to be in rural areas that are much poorer than what you would find in even the below average income areas of a city. Plus access to medical care is considerably less in those areas too.

        My family was from a rural area in Pennsylvania. My grandmother had seven children and was in her seventies the first time she went to a hospital or a doctor's office. The family doctor made house calls back then. But he

    • . . . and was the premature birthrate higher anyway, before fracking started . . . ?

    • by lowen ( 10529 )

      Been quite a while since we've had a Battlestar Galactica thread.......

    • The cause may be in the environment, and not due to fracking itself. Did they check the records before the fracking industry move in? Was it always there? It may just have been an environmental issue that coincides with the land features that trap the gas in the first place.
    • I read the article* and couldn't find anything that linked the measurement of fracking activity to the measurement of premature births.

      There was a lot of warning verbiage about fracking and a lot of warning verbiage about premature births. They wrapped the two items together without any scientific backing and even stated that their research is still in "infancy" (pun intended?). They mention some points that it could be stress or something else, etc.

      Basically its a prematurely (eh?) written article that i

    • by WSOGMM ( 1460481 )
      As it turns out, Taco Bell has a higher presence in fracking regions than other more traditional Mexican food restaurants. I'll bet feeding that shit to yourself causes premature birth.
    • It's an interesting study, but just by looking at the methodology in the abstract there are a few things that pop out as mildly suspicious immediately:

      1: No mention of prior healthcare records from the subjects studied. If a large portion of the subjects didn't have healthcare prior to gas and oil field work provided insurance it will definitely impact how the pregnancy progresses. There was also no mention of what, if any, jobs these women were performing during pregnancy, how many drank alcohol or consume

    • by plopez ( 54068 )

      Or the constant roar of compressor stations. They use aircraft turbine engines to run the compressors for natural gas pipeline. Or sex with drunken meth addled rig hands. Or fumes from diesel engines. Or fumes from burning oil pits. Etc.

      Oil and gas exploration is a dirty and nasty business. The sooner we can replace it with something cleaner the better.

  • by alzoron ( 210577 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @10:04AM (#50698731) Journal

    I'm not discounting the possibility that there may be a causal relationship here but from what I see of the article and abstract they only looked at data between 2009 and 2012. Is it possible that these sites have a preexisting condition that would cause higher levels of preterm birth? They should expand their data analysis to a larger period before the fracking occurred. This way we can at the very least see if there is a stronger correlation here and move forward.

    • by sycodon ( 149926 )

      I suspect now that they have what they were looking for, they will claim the Science is Settled.

      Next comes the Legislation!

    • "Could it be that any geographic location you test for proximity to X can be found to correlate positively to phenomena Y without X causing Y?" What are you trying to do, shut down Slashdot? If I go to a Who concert, I wanna see Townsend bust his guitar.
  • by alexhs ( 877055 )

    Hint: If you're going to argue that fracking is safe or even actually good for health, you can pick plenty of arguments from yesterday's discussion [slashdot.org].

    I mean, if the arguments dismissing your favorite source of cheap energy as being the cause of 20x-50x higher rates in some health issue are working, they certainly should work even better for 30%-40% increases, right ?

  • I suppose fracking can happen at random places. However, most of the land area in the US is characterized by lower than average socioeconomic status, as expressed on a per capita basis, for the simple reasons that cities tend to have higher population and higher per capita income. This way, even a random site selection leads to a bias in the welfare of the neighboring population. Add to this that fracking is more restricted in and around large cities.

    While the study may have accounted for these factors, the

    • I suppose fracking can happen at random places.

      No. It can only happen at suitable sites.

      However, most of the land area in the US is characterized by lower than average socioeconomic status, as expressed on a per capita basis,

      Averages are not that interesting, medians are more useful. The extreme outliers (on the high end only) disturb the graph too badly.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you want to stop the spread of fracking, you need to convince these women to carry their children full term.

  • Cause of Effect (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kaatochacha ( 651922 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @12:18PM (#50699267)

    Does fracking cause this, or do poor people with already statistically bad health outcomes live near fracking sites?
    It's not as if Millionaires with nice health insurance live on top of fracking sites.

  • Want to induce labor? Spicy foods or frakking.
  • There is about the same chance that hydraulic fracturing leads to an increase in premature births as that hydraulic fracturing leads to the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. Unless these women are flagging down Haliburton trucks and swimming in the tanks this is utterly and totally preposterous.

    But that won't stop the lawyers from driving in their expensive automobiles to the courthouse to file the law suit and it won't stop the charlatan 'researches' from getting paid big money to testif

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