Living by oil and gas drilling linked to lower birthweights
A new study from Oregon State University found that infants born within 3 kilometers of oil and natural gas drilling facilities in Texas had slightly lower birthweights than those born before drilling began in their vicinity.

Developing fetuses are highly sensitive to environmental pollution and contaminants, so to measure potential impact, this study examined birthweight and location data for 2,598,025 mother-infant pairs in Texas between 1996 and 2009 in which the mother was pregnant while living within 10 kilometers of a current or future oil or gas drilling site.

The potential exposures related to drilling are numerous: air pollution from drilling activities, flaring, and increased traffic going to and from the drilling site; water contamination from hydraulic fracturing chemicals; noise pollution from industrial activity and increased traffic; and light pollution from new drilling facilities.

After accounting for other potential factors influencing birth weight, the research team found that living within 3 kilometers of an active drilling site was associated with birth weight 7 to 9 grams lower than the birthweight of babies born before drilling began.

With this study, the team hoped to give policymakers a standard safe distance for drilling, but they found the health impact doesn't totally dissipate at 3 kilometers (nearly 2 miles).

Environmental Health Perspectives