Fracking Linked to Lower Birth Weight Babies

Fracking Chemicals Found in Pennsylvania Drinking Water-media-1

by David C. Strouss, Esq.

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.



Fracking Chemicals Found In Pennsylvania Drinking Water










By David C. Strouss, Esq.

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.




THORNTON LAW FIRM: 40 Years Of Service


By: Patricia M. Flannery, Esq.

Posted on January 22, 2013

Over the course of four decades of representation of plaintiffs, Thornton Law Firm has grown into the largest plaintiff-only law firm in New England. Always at the leading edge of litigation, Thornton Law Firm has a proven track record of unswerving dedication to clients and an intense focus on working our hardest for you.

We have successfully represented plaintiffs in all manner of cases: personal injury, asbestos and mesothelioma, products liability, toxic torts, birth defects, pharmaceutical and medical devices, workers’ compensation, wage and hour, and false claims act whistleblower cases. Each case, each claim, presents a different story for us to tell on behalf of our clients. After forty years, this wonderful technology exists so that we can share our own stories with you. The Thornton Law Firm blog is dedicated to sharing the latest firm news, legal stories, and items of interest to our clients and followers. With this, our first post, we would like to invite you to read, comment, and share our future posts. As always, if you have any questions about your legal rights, contact Thornton Law Firm for a free consultation by calling 888-491-9726 or tell us your story using our online contact form.

Future blog posts will include:

  • The latest mesothelioma and asbestos litigation news;
  • Developments in our semiconductor manufacturing / birth defect cases;
  • The potential environmental effects resulting from fracking in Pennsylvania and Colorado;
  • What you should know about DePuy and other hip implants;
  • The status of the New England Compounding Company cases;

If there are subjects that interest you in these blogs, or if you have an idea for a future Thornton Law Firm blog post, please feel free to contact us and share your thoughts.

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