Researchers have analyzed U.S. fracking sites, suggesting that pollution from the controversial process could affect neurodevelopment of babies and children.
Extracting shale gas through the process of fracking, a method of drilling using highly pressurized fluids, could be releasing dangerous pollutants that pose a health risk to infants and children. Other countries such as France, Ireland, and Germany have banned fracking over environmental concerns. In the U.S., however, the practice is growing rapidly.
According to The Guardian, the research team focused their efforts on five major clusters of pollutants, including heavy metals, hormone-disrupting chemicals and particulates. The negative effects of the pollution groups include memory and learning deficits, as well as negative behavioral effects.
“This study is really the first comprehensive look at whether there is a risk for this type of harm from fracking,” said the study’s co-author, Ellen Webb from the Center for Environmental Health.
The study also reports that excessive amounts of manganese and benzene have been found, exceeding U.S. “safe” levels.
“Given the profound sensitivity of the developing brain and the central nervous system, it is very reasonable to conclude that young children who experience frequent exposure to these pollutants are at particularly high risk for chronic neurological problems and disease,” said Webb.
Benzene is a known carcinogen linked to life-threatening illnesses such as acute myeloid leukemia (AML), myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), lymphomas and aplastic anemia. High levels of benzene exposure for prolonged periods of time pose a serious health threat.
The study authors recommend that fracking sites be located at least a mile away from schools and other buildings, and that heavy monitoring is necessary to ensure that the human exposure is kept to a minimum.