New research documents for the first time the pollution of public water supplies caused by shale gas development, commonly known as fracking, and its negative impact of infant health. These findings call for closer environmental regulation of the industry, as levels of chemicals found in drinking water often fall below regulatory thresholds.
“In this study, we provide evidence that public drinking water quality has been compromised by shale gas development,” said Elaine Hill, Ph.D., an associate professor with the University of Rochester Departments of Public Health Sciences, Economics and Obstetrics & Gynecology. “Our findings indicate that drilling near an infant’s public water source yields poorer birth outcomes and more fracking-related contaminants in public drinking water.”
The new paper, which appears in the Journal of Health Economics, is co-authored by Hill and Lala Ma, Ph.D., with the University of Kentucky. Hill’s previous research was the first to link shale gas development to drinking water quality and has examined the association between shale gas development and reproductive health, and the subsequent impact on later educational attainment, higher risk of childhood asthma exacerbation, higher risk of heart attacks, and opioid deaths. Her research brings an important perspective to the policy discussion about fracking which has often emphasized the immediate job creation and economic benefits, without fully understanding the long-term environmental and health consequences for communities in which drilling occurs.