The powerful effect environment has on babies, even when they are in the womb –
Pregnant women in rural California who lived near active oil and gas wells were 40% more likely to give birth to low birthweight babies, according to new research published today.
The study led by University of California scientists is the first to investigate what California’s constellation of oil and gas development means for babies born nearby. The finding could galvanize efforts in the state Legislature to require buffer zones around oil and gas activities.
The researchers found that 6% of women living near rural oil and gas wells that churned out more than 100 barrels a day had low birthweight newborns, compared to 5% of women with no oil and gas production nearby. When the researchers factored in variables like the mother’s age and socioeconomic status, that translates to a 40 percent increased likelihood. Low birthweight babies, who weigh less than 5.5 pounds at birth, may be healthy but often have a higher rate of illnesses, such as respiratory diseases and difficulty fighting infections, as well as developmental delays.