Study Provides Further Evidence For A Relationship Between Oil And Gas Exploration, Birth Defects – ScienceDaily


Mothers living near more intense oil and gas developmental activities are 40-70% more likely to have children with congenital heart defects, according to a new study by researchers at the Colorado School (CHD ) than those living in areas of less intense activity. of Public Health.

“We observed that more children were born with congenital heart defects in areas where oil and gas well activity is most intense,” said study lead author Lisa McKenzie, PhD , MPH, of the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

At least 17 million people in the United States and 6% of Colorado’s population live within a mile of a working oil and gas well site.

The study was published today in the peer-reviewed journal International environment.

The researchers studied 3,324 infants born in Colorado between 2005 and 2011. They looked at infants with several specific types of coronary heart disease.

The researchers estimated the monthly intensity of oil and gas well activity in the mother’s home from three months before conception to the second month of pregnancy. This intensity measurement took into account the development phase (drilling, well completion or production), the size of the well sites and production volumes.

They found that mothers living in areas with the highest levels of oil and gas well activity were about 40 to 70 percent more likely to have children with coronary heart disease. It is the most common birth defect in the country and one of the leading causes of death in infants with birth defects. Infants with coronary artery disease are less likely to thrive, more likely to have developmental problems, and more vulnerable to brain damage.

Animal models show that coronary heart disease can occur with a single environmental exposure during early pregnancy. Some of the more common hazardous air pollutants emitted from well sites are suspected teratogens – agents that can cause birth defects – known to cross the placenta.

The study builds on a previous one that looked at 124,842 births in rural Colorado between 1996 and 2009 and found that coronary heart disease increased with increasing density of oil and gas wells around the maternal residence. . Another study in Oklahoma, involving 476,000 births, found positive but imprecise associations between proximity to oil and gas wells and several types of coronary heart disease.

These studies had several limitations, including the inability to distinguish between well development and site production phases, and they did not confirm specific coronary artery disease by reviewing medical records.

Limitations were discussed in this latest study. The researchers were able to confirm where the mothers lived during the first months of their pregnancy, estimate the intensity of the well’s activity and explain the presence of other sources of air pollution. Coronary heart disease was also confirmed by a review of the medical record and did not include those whose genetic origin was known.

“We observed positive associations between the odds of a birth with coronary heart disease and maternal exposure to oil and gas activities… during the second month of gestation,” the study researchers said.

Data from the study showed higher levels of CHD in rural areas with high intensities of oil and gas activity compared to those in more urban areas. McKenzie said it is likely that other sources of air pollution in urban areas have masked these associations.

The exact way in which chemicals lead to CHD is not fully understood. Some evidence suggests that they may affect the formation of the heart in the second month of pregnancy. This could lead to birth defects.

McKenzie said the results suggested but did not prove a causal relationship between oil and gas exploration and congenital heart defects and that more research needed to be done.

“This study provides further evidence of a positive association between maternal proximity to activities at oil and gas well sites and several types of CHD,” she said. Taken together, our results and the expansion of oil and gas well site development underscore the importance of continuing to conduct comprehensive and rigorous research into the health consequences of early exposure to oil and gas activities. . “