OKLAHOMA CITY - A new study published in the journal "Science Advances" links oil and gas fracking sites to low birth weights in infants.
The report states pregnant mothers living near oil and gas fracking sites face an elevated risk of giving birth to babies with health problems. Air and water pollutants are cited.
The study looked at 1.1 million births in Pennsylvania between 2003-2014. The study finds that babies born to mothers living less than a half mile from a fracking site are 25% more likely to be born at a low birth weight.
If a mother lives further away from a site, the risks decrease. So, if a mother lives more than two miles away from a fracking site, there is not an observable impact on infant health.
Fetal medicine experts are cautious about the study's conclusions.
"You have to be very cautious, in terms of drawing conclusions, the article suggests that there may be an association between fracking and exposures related to such and low birth weights, but doesn't discern whether there is a cause and effect," said Dr. Chuck Mirabile.
Dr. Mirabile points out that most well sites are in rural or less desirable living areas. Those two variables are associated with lower socio-economic demographics which, historically, don't have adequate access to prenatal care.
Oil and gas officials in Oklahoma are also quick to point out flaws in the study.
"They actually say they only tested for potential pollutants, and not actual causation. So, really, the study just shows some sort of spacial correlation to oil and gas sites but they didn't account for other factors of the mother's ages or other health characteristics that could have also contributed to low birth weight," said Arnella Karges with the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association.