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Monday, June 8, 2015

Study Attempts and Fails to Connect Fracking to Low Birth Weights in Pennsylvania

From the Columbus Dispatch:
Pregnant women who live close to multiple fracking wells in Pennsylvania were more likely to have babies with lower birth weights than were those who live farther away, a study published on Wednesday shows. 
University of Pittsburgh researchers, however, caution that their findings do not mean there is a conclusive link between fracking and lower birth weights. 
But the results are concerning, said Bruce Pitt, chairman of the university’s environmental and occupational health department and coauthor of the study. 
Pitt said this study should “lay the groundwork” for a larger, more comprehensive study into the effects of natural-gas production and fracking on pregnancies.
Click here to read the whole article.  

It's interesting to note that the article from the Dispatch was originally titled: "Study: Proximity to Fracking Tied to Lower Birth Weights" but was later changed to "More Study Needed on Fracking, Birth Link".  Perhaps that has something to do with the large number of limitations in this particular study, which was funded by an anti-fracking organization and not peer-reviewed before being published in a journal called PLOS ONE and then picked up by several media outlets.

From Energy in Depth:
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh released a study this week claiming to have found a potential correlation between low infant birth weights and distance from well sites. Despite what you may read in the headlines, the researchers actually make it very clear that they did not find shale development to be the cause of low birth weights.  As one of the researchers, Dr. Bruce Pitt, stated in the report’s press release: 
“It is important to stress that our study does not say that these pollutants caused the lower birth weights.” 
The study, which was funded by the anti-fracking Heinz-Endowment and published in a journal that does not require peer-review, looked at data from over 15,000 babies born in Washington, Westmoreland and Butler Counties from 2007 to 2010 that lived within 10 miles of well sites during their gestation period. The researchers base their claims on percentages of “small for gestational age” babies in four “quartiles” – the first quartile being farthest away from shale gas wells and the fourth quartile being the closest to shale gas wells. 
The study has a number of glaring flaws, many of which the authors even pointed out in anentire page devoted to the study’s limitations. Here are the top seven important things you need to know while reading this study and the media coverage surrounding it: 
Fact #1: Average birth weights in study don’t meet criteria for low birth weights; even highest numbers still well below the national average
Read the rest of that article here.

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