On October 8, 2015, the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health published a study in the Journal of Epidemiology entitled “Unconventional Natural Gas Development and Birth Outcomes in Pennsylvania, USA.” This study examines the risk of premature birth in areas of central and northeastern Pennsylvania with active hydraulically fractured shale wells.
The researchers used the Geisinger Health System record data to evaluate the number of preterm births between January 2009 and January 2013 and performed a retrospective cohort study linking the record data to estimates of exposure to active shale wells during the period of gestation.
For this purpose, the researchers created an estimated activity index system that included information about well drilling dates, production volumes as well as well stimulation dates and drilling depth during the gestation.
They concluded that “there was an association between unconventional natural gas development activity and preterm birth that increased across [the phases of well development]” while “[t]here were no associations of activity with Apgar score, small for gestational age birth, or term birth weight.”
Written by Chloe Marie - Research Fellow