Monday, July 30, 2012

New Report Suggests Fracking Connected to Low Birth Weight

From the Epoch Times:
New research suggests the health of newborn babies is adversely affected in areas close to sites undertaking natural gas extraction by way of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking; the method of obtaining natural gas by blasting shale with a solution of water and chemicals.
“A mother’s exposure to fracking before birth increases the overall prevalence of low birth weight by 25 percent,” said Elaine L. Hill, Cornell University doctoral candidate and author of the working paper, “Unconventional Natural Gas Development and Infant Health: Evidence from Pennsylvania.” Hill also found a 17 percent increase in “small for gestational age” births, and reduced health scores.
She spoke at a fracking forum hosted by Sen. Tony Avella in New York City Wednesday.
Hill’s paper looked at birth measures, including birth weight and premature birth, for those born in Pennsylvania starting in 2003, before fracking began. The study used data through 2010 and focused on those living up to 1.5 miles from gas development sites. Pennsylvania increased its unconventional natural gas wells from 20 in 2007 to 4,272 by the end of 2010.
Read the rest of that article here.

Needless to say, Energy in Depth was quick to respond to this report and pick apart the reasons that one may want to exercise caution in flatly accepting the assertions that Hill makes.  From their article:
Andy Revkin at the New York Times – certainly no shill for the oil and gas industry! — has done a deep dive into the problem of jumping the gun on this kind of research, including the fact that opponents are now using Ms. Hill as some sort of “champion” of their cause. What Revkin uncovered, among many things, is that the activist group New Yorkers Against Fracking hired a PR firm (BerlinRosen Public Affairs) to promote the piece, and the firm sent out a pitch to the media about the paper, stating only that it was written by a “researcher at Cornell” — nothing about peer review, and nothing about the fact that the author is still a graduate student. Revkin asked BerlinRosen about why they were promoting a paper before peer review, to which the firm replied that Ms. Hill’s results raise “critical questions” that “should be discussed.”
Why is this worth noting? Because Ms. Hill herself told Mr. Revkin that her results are “preliminary” (that aspect was ignored by activists, either deliberately or inconveniently) and that she “does not want to rush it” in terms of publication. She also said it’s a “valid” point to suggest that her conclusions not be cited until peer review is complete — completely undermining the PR firm (on behalf of New Yorkers Against Fracking) that tried to do exactly the opposite.
The article goes on to list five reasons that the report, which has not been peer-reviewed, is questionable.  Read it here.

After the jump you can view the actual report.



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