Fracking chemicals affect kids’ brain health


In October, a new review was published in the peer-reviewed journal Reviews on Environmental Health. The review, “Neurodevelopmental and neurological effects of chemicals associated with unconventional oil and natural gas operations and their potential effects on infants and children,” shows that substances used in unconventional oil and natural gas (UOG) development and operations have been linked to impaired brain function in infants, children, and young a adults. Impairments include learning disabilities, ADHD, dyslexia, sensory deficits, mental retardation, and autism spectrum disorders.

The review exposes at least five pollutant categories associated with fracking are linked to increased neurological and neurodevelopmental problems in children:

  • Heavy metals (arsenic and manganese)
  • Particulate matter (PM)
  • Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes (BTEX)
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs)

These five pollutant groups are known to trigger neurotoxicity, neuroinflammation, psychomotor effects, and neuromuscular effects. Some of these pollutant categories are also linked with neural tube defects and neurodevelopmental effects such as impaired memory, intellectual function, learning and cognitive function. Young children who experience frequent exposure to these pollutants are at particularly high risk for chronic neurological diseases.

“The peer-reviewed research demonstrates that exposure to chemicals associated with fracking can be dangerous for developing brains. To protect infants and children from potential life-long health impacts, state and federal agencies need to implement sensible rules for siting and managing fracking and other unconventional oil and gas operations. Families deserve protection and children deserve a healthy future, “said Ellen Webb, MPH, Health Sciences and Advocacy Manager for Center for Environmental Health (CEH), the lead author of the review.

The paper concludes that public health prevention techniques, and stronger state and national regulatory standards are needed in UOG development.

Fracking Chemicals Linked to Neurodevelopmental Health Impacts

On December 7, Ellen Webb discussed her recent review in a TEDX webinar. Webb highlighted priority chemicals associated with adverse neurodevelopmental and neurological disorders and endocrine disruption. She also identified future research needs and general policy recommendations in light of the potential hazards and risks to human health.

Ellen Webb, MPH is a public health professional with nearly 15 years experience working at the intersection of health, science, and policy. Her research addresses the link between environmental exposures and health effects, particularly among vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and children. She has worked in the private, government and nonprofit sectors, including management of maternal and child health education and research projects on potential health effects of oil and gas development. Ellen earned her MPH in Health Policy & Management from Columbia University.

Click here to listen to the webinar and view the slide presentation. Duration — 34:50 minutes

Catch up with the latest TEDX podcasts

Episode 5: How can advocacy groups address health symptoms in fracked communities?
Duration — 11:27 minutes

Dr. Beth Weinberger, researcher and public health consultant with the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, answers the question, “How can NGOs address health symptoms in fracked communities?” She discusses health effects seen in these communities and recommends tools and resources available to advocacy groups and residents living near unconventional oil and natural gas activity. Read her study on the topic.

Episode 4: How do environmental laws protect fracking chemicals?
Duration — 9:42 minutes

Dusty Horwitt, Senior Counsel at the Partnership for Policy Integrity, answers the question “How do environmental laws protect fracking chemicals?” He discusses EPA’s regulatory authority over new drilling and fracking chemicals and the confidentiality laws that conceal chemical identifiers from the public. He also presents a solution in which chemical names are kept confidential while usage and health data are revealed. Read more on the topic and hear National Public Radio coverage.

Click here to listen to all of the latest podcasts from The Endocrine Disruption Exchange.

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One Comment on “Fracking chemicals affect kids’ brain health”

  1. Barbara Coddington Says:

    Tragically these comments have to come from states where the learning institutations are not influenced by monetary donations by oilngas to the research arms, who then are careful not to bite the hand that feeds them.

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