Study: Babies born near natural gas flaring are 50 percent more likely to be premature

Daily Climate discusses why babies born near natural gas flaring are 50 percent more likely to be premature. Researchers link air pollution from burning off excess natural gas to preterm births for babies; with the most pronounced impacts among Hispanic families.

Living near fracking operations that frequently engage in flaring—the process of burning off excess natural gas—makes expectant parents 50 percent more likely to have a preterm birth, according to a new study.

A birth is considered preterm when a baby arrives before 37 weeks (about eight and a half months) of pregnancy. Preterm births can result in underdeveloped lungs, difficulty regulating body temperature, poor feeding, and slow weight gain in babies.

Fracking, another name for hydraulic fracturing, is a process of extracting oil and gas from the Earth by drilling deep wells and injecting liquid at high pressure. While many studies have established links between living near fracking wells and numerous health effects, including preterm births, this is the first study to specifically investigate the health impacts of flaring.

The study, published today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, looked at satellite data showing the location and duration of flares, and at hospital records from 23,487 births for parents living in the rural region of Eagle Ford, Texas between 2012 and 2015. In a previous study, the same researchers estimated that the Eagle Ford shale region, which is home to more than 7,000 fracking wells, had more than 43,000 flaring events between 2012 and 2016.

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