Mothers living near more intense oil and gas development activity have a 40 to 70 percent higher chance of having children with congenital heart defects (CHDs) compared to those living in areas of less intense activity, according to a new study from researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health.
“We observed more children were being born with a congenital heart defect in areas with the highest intensity of oil and gas well activity,” said the study’s senior author Dr. Lisa McKenzie At least 17 million people in the U.S. and 6 percent of Colorado’s population live within one mile of an active oil and gas well site.
The study was published in Environment International.
The researchers studied 3,324 infants born in Colorado from 2005-2011. They looked at infants with several specific types of CHDs. Researchers estimated the monthly intensity of oil and gas well activity at mother’s residence from three months prior to conception through the second month of pregnancy. This intensity measure accounted for the phase of development (drilling, well completion, or production), size of well sites, and production volumes.
They found mothers living in areas with the most intense levels of oil and gas well activity were about 40 to 70 percent more likely to have children with CHDs. This is the most common birth defect in the country and a leading cause of death among infants with birth defects. Infants with a CHD are less likely to thrive, more likely to have developmental problems and more vulnerable to brain injury.
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