Published on June 8, 2015
Pregnant women living near multiple fracking sites are more likely to have lower birth weight babies than those who live farther away, according to a new study by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. The study analyzed births and fracking activity in three counties where 18% of Pennsylvania’s fracking takes place. The researchers found that women who lived within one mile of 6 or more fracking wells had a 34% greater likelihood of having babies that are “small for gestational age”, which is a birth weight in the lowest 10 percent of the baby’s gestational age (as opposed to low birth weight, defined as lower than 5.5 pounds).
Hydraulic fracturing, known colloquially as “fracking”, is a natural gas recovery technique that uses unconventional methods to release gas trapped deep underground. Bores are drilled far down into the shale, and fracking fluid, composed of water, sand, and 6-10 chemicals, including surfactants, biocides, and metal chelators, is forced into the well at high pressure to crack the shale and release the gas within. Environmental hazards of fracking include air pollution, which the study describes as being “both direct (flaring of methane gas at well heads, controlled burning of natural gas and release of VOCs including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene) and indirect (traffic, diesel operated compressors).” Since the researchers didn’t have exact information about how much pollution pregnant women were exposed to from fracking wells, they used proximity to the wells to account for exposure data.
This study analyzed 15,390 birth records from Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties in Pennsylvania for the time period 2007-2010. This data was cross-referenced with data on the proximity of fracking wells to the pregnant moms’ homes. The study authors note that fracking in Pennsylvania has grown from 44 wells before 2007 to 2,864 fracking wells drilled between 2007 and 2010. The authors are careful to say that their study only shows an association between lower birth weight and fracking, and recommend further study of the issue. But the co-author of the study, Bruce Pitt, Ph.D., chair of the University of Pittsburgh’s Public Health’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, added this warning: “Developing fetuses are particularly sensitive to the effects of environmental pollutants,” said Dr. Pitt. “We know that fine particulate air pollution, exposure to heavy metals and benzene, and maternal stress all are associated with lower birth weight.”
Thornton Law Firm is investigating birth defect and other reproductive disorder claims against the fracking industry in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and other states. The birth defect lawyers at Thornton Law Firm are also involved in active litigation on behalf of many clients whose children were born with devastating birth defects caused in a variety of wrongful ways, whether by unsafe prescription or over-the-counter medications, workplace chemical exposures , or toxic pollutants that contaminate the air or groundwater of their communities. If you believe you or a family member has been harmed by nearby fracking operations, please tell us your birth defect story here, or contact our birth defect attorneys at 888-491-9726 for a free, confidential evaluation of your legal case.
Published on May 12, 2015
The New York Times has published a two-part expose on the health and working conditions of nail salon workers that finds the workers are at risk for miscarriage or their children developing birth defects as a result of their exposure to chemicals at work. If you’ve ever been in a nail salon you’ve smelled the fumes of the polishes, polish removers, polish hardeners, acrylics and other products, and the clouds of white dust produced as manicurists do their work. The toxic cloud that often accompanies salon work can, in fact, often be smelled without even entering the store. Sadly, the workers in these establishments who are exposed to the chemicals in these products for hours every day are at great risk of a wide variety of health conditions. Perhaps the most frightening health consequence for the workers themselves is the harm caused to their reproductive systems. Documented stories of children born with birth defects and developmental delays, or children lost to miscarriages, are the consequence of unregulated exposure to toxic chemicals. Many common workplace chemicals can cause these horrific effects. A pioneer in the field and one of the first firms to represent birth defect victims nationwide, Thornton Law Firm has been representing families of children with birth defects caused by exposure to chemicals for decades. If you believe your exposure to chemicals while working in a nail salon caused your child’s birth defect, call us at 888-491-9726 for a free consultation.
The accounts of the nail salon workers health issues in the Times article are awful. One salon worker has had 5 miscarriages. Others have borne children with birth defects, developmental delays, and learning difficulties. One woman’s fingerprints had been almost erased by years of chemical exposure. The Times summarizes the plight of the nail workers they investigated: “[S]tories of illness and tragedy abound at nail salons across the country, of children born slow or “special,” of miscarriages and cancers, of coughs that will not go away and painful skin afflictions.”
Three very dangerous chemicals are ingredients in most nail polish products: toluene, dibutyl phthalate (or DBP) and formaldehyde. They cause a wide variety of health problems. Toluene, an industrial solvent, has been associated with common birth defects including microcephaly, central nervous system dysfunction, and craniofacial and limb anomalies. DBP, a phthalate esther, is believed to cause reproductive toxicity at high exposures for long periods of time – exactly the conditions in which nail salon workers are exposed to DBP. It has been banned by the European Union since 2003. Formaldehyde can cause skin irritation and rashes and is suspected of causing reproductive toxicity. It will be completely banned by the European Union by 2016.
All these chemical exposures have myriad health effects on nail salon workers. In the short term they may suffer respiratory and skin ailments, from coughs and rashes to painful skin afflictions. But it is the more serious medical issues that cause gravest concern. Some of the chemicals are carcinogens – they are known to cause cancer in humans. Others like Toluene, DBP, and formaldehyde, may contribute to low birth-weight babies, abnormal fetal development, birth defects, and miscarriages. Studies have found that cosmetologists have increased rates of death from Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. Working in a nail salon may be one of the most dangerous jobs in America.
Thornton Law Firm’s birth defect lawyers specialize in helping families whose children have suffered birth defects recover the compensation they deserve. We understand the pain that families face when coping with permanent, life-altering birth defects and the frustration of knowing they did not have to happen. The emotional, financial, and physical strain of birth defects impacts everyone in that family for their whole life. If you believe your exposure to chemicals while working in a nail salon caused your child’s birth defect, please call our birth defect attorneys at 888-491-9726 or tell us your story here via our website. All consultations are free and completely confidential.
Published on May 8, 2015
A new study has shown that a chemical used in fracking was found in the drinking water of 3 homes near Chesapeake Energy Corporation’s fracking operations in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. The fracking chemical 2-Butoxyethanol (2-BE) is used as a foaming agent in fracking fluid; the affected homeowners sued the fracking company after water from their wells foamed white and smelled of gas. While Chesapeake Energy never admitted responsibility, it settled the lawsuit and bought the three homes with the polluted water. This study analyzed the water from the homes using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this study is one of the first to scientifically show fracking chemicals getting into drinking water.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a method of releasing trapped gas and oil from geologic formations deep underground. A well is drilled, thousands of feet down to the shale, then a casing of steel and cement is inserted around the walls of the well. The casing is perforated in dozens of places next to the shale. Then fracking fluid, which can contain up to 39,000 gallons of chemicals per well, is injected into the well at high pressure. The fluid enters the shale through the drilled holes and breaks – fractures – the shale formation, allowing the gas trapped in the shale to escape into the well.
Fracking companies claim that because fracking occurs so deep under ground – below drinking water aquifers – the many hazardous chemicals used in fracking pose no risk to human health. 2BE is a solvent used in latex paint, varnishes, enamels, paint strippers, dry-cleaning compounds, and liquid cleaners. The chemical found in the three families wells, 2-BE, is known to cause tumors and birth defects in rats. The amount of 2-BE found in the drinking water was within safety regulations, but It is not yet known if 2-BE causes cancer or birth defects in humans.
The bigger concern is the possibility that other even more hazardous chemicals already known to cause birth defects and other reproductive harm in humans could similarly wind up in the drinking water of families. Many chemicals used in the fracking process, such as toluene, ethylene glycol, methanol, and ethanol, are known teratogens, meaning they are known to cause birth defects.
The study authors believe the fracking chemicals in the drinking water wells likely migrated from poor fracking well integrity. As a result of the lawsuit by the three homeowners, Pennsylvania now recommends that fracking companies extend the casings on wells at depths below 1000 feet. Of course, as Scott Anderson of the Environmental Working Groups points out, while drilling companies know how to make wells safer, “the fact is, they don’t always do so.”
Thornton Law Firm is currently investigating birth defect and other reproductive disorder claims against the fracking industry in Pennsylvania, Colorado, and other states. Thornton Law Firm currently represents many clients suffering birth defects resulting from parents’ chemical exposures. If you believe you or a family member has been harmed by nearby fracking operations, please tell us your story here, or contact our birth defect attorneys at 888-491-9726 for a free, confidential evaluation of your legal case.