Fracking chemicals and kids’ brains don’t mix

Multiple pollutants found in the air and water near fracked oil and gas sites are linked to brain problems in children, according to a new science review.

Researchers focused on five types of pollution commonly found near the sites—heavy metals, particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrobcarbons, BTEX and endocrine disrupting compounds—and scrutinized existing health studies of the compounds’ impacts to kids’ brains.

“Early life exposure to these air and water pollutants has been shown to be associated with learning and neuropsychological deficits, neurodevelopmental disorders, and neurological birth defects, with potentially permanent consequences to brain health,” the authors wrote.

Since the mid-2000s, as extraction techniques such as fracking became more widespread and refined, oil and gas drilling has taken off. The FracTracker Alliance — a renewable energy advocate organization that studies and maps oil and gas development — estimates there are about 1.7 million active oil and gas wells in the U.S.

The study authors said regulators should increase setback distances between oil and gas development and places where children live or play. They recommend at least a mile “between drilling facility lines and the property line of occupied dwellings such as schools, hospitals and other spaces where infants and children might spend a substantial amount of time.”

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