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‘Babies born near industrial sites may face health problems’

PTI | New York |

Infants born to mothers within three kilometres of a industrial site may be at an increased risk of asthma and early death, a US study warns. Researchers found that babies born within 0.8 kilometres from a fracking site were 25 per cent more likely to be born at low birth weights.

They are at greater risk of infant mortality, ADHD, asthma, lower test scores, lower schooling attainment and lower lifetime earnings. “Given the growing evidence that pollution affects babies in utero, it should not be surprising that fracking, which is a heavy industrial activity, has negative effects on infants,” said Janet Currie, from Princeton University in the US.

Using records from more than 1.1 million births across Pennsylvania from 2004 to 2013, the researchers compared infants born to mothers living near a drilling site to those living farther away from a site, before and after fracking began at that site.

The most significant impacts were seen among babies born within 0.9 kilometres of a site, as those babies were 25 per cent more likely to be low birth weight, that is born under two kilogrammes.

“This study provides the strongest large-scale evidence of a link between the pollution that stems from hydraulic fracturing activities and our health, specifically the health of babies,” said Michael Greenstone, from the University of Chicago in the US.