Congenital Heart Defects: ‘Cause Freedom Isn’t Free

Photo courtesy Gov. Jared Polis.

Colorado Public Radio’s Michael Sakas reports on more liberal propaganda running down those precious “freedom molecules,” oil and gas, for a minor side effect that’s frankly a small price to pay for the right to turn your faucet and have hot water come out:

A new University of Colorado Anschutz study finds that mothers living near more intense oil and gas development have a 40 to 70 percent higher chance of having children with congenital heart defects.

Researchers studied 3,324 babies born in Colorado from 2005 to 2011. The study’s lead author is Dr. Lisa McKenzie, an assistant research professor at the Colorado School of Public Health. She said the research found that more children were being born with congenital heart defects in areas that had the highest intensity of oil and gas activity then in areas with lower intensity or no oil and gas wells…

This study’s goal was to address the limitations of a 2014 study, also led by McKenzie, that found a 30 percent increase of risk of congenital heart defects in infants living near natural gas wells. The earlier study treated all wells around the mothers’ homes the same, instead of accounting for intensity of development and production. The 2014 study also didn’t specifically look at where the mother lived during the second month of pregnancy.

Back in 2014 we took note of the original release of this study, which was accompanied by fierce pushback from both the oil and gas industry as well as officials in former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s pro-drilling administration. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) slammed the study’s “many deficiencies,” and Colorado Department of Public Health head Larry Wolk said the study “is not conclusive in itself.”

As Chief Medical Officer, I would tell pregnant women and mothers who live, or who at-the-time-of-their-pregnancy lived, in proximity to a gas well not to rely on this study as an explanation of why one of their children might have had a birth defect. Many factors known to contribute to birth defects were ignored in this study.

What does COGA say today, now that this second look at the data has confirmed the first?

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association also released a statement, saying that the data McKenzie used is outdated.

“Data that has no relevance to current regulations or to the common practices used by today’s operators,” the statement reads. [Pols emphasis]

If the oil and gas industry’s five-year journey from “the study is flawed” to “the data is outdated” in response to a study that has consistently demonstrated a much higher incidence of congenital heart defects near intense oil and gas drilling leaves you feeling less than comforted, that’s because it should scare the hell out of you. It’s true that regulations on drilling have tightened in the years since the original study, which looked at drilling from 2005-11–by far the biggest of which is this year’s Senate Bill 181, which hasn’t even been fully implemented. And as readers know, the industry was rather less than happy with SB-181’s passage.

If regulations that the oil and gas industry fought tooth and nail for years are now supposed to get them off the hook for a public health problem they not only denied but scorned the researchers over with full ad hominem contact, now that the original conclusion has been validated…

Well, an apology to Lisa McKenzie, the backers of SB-181, and an unknown number of babies would be nice.


5 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

    What a shocker! Industry denies the obvious truth. Who would believe it?

  2. davebarnesdavebarnes says:

    More about babies.

    The Impact of Car Pollution on Infant and Child Health: Evidence from Emissions Cheating

    "Car exhaust is a major source of air pollution, but little is known about its impacts on population health. We exploit the dispersion of emissions-cheating diesel cars—which secretly polluted up to 150 times as much as gasoline cars—across the United States from 2008-2015 as a natural experiment to measure the health impact of car pollution. Using the universe of vehicle registrations, we demonstrate that a 10 percent cheating-induced increase in car exhaust increases rates of low birth weight and acute asthma attacks among children by 1.9 and 8.0 percent, respectively. These health impacts occur at all pollution levels and across the entire socioeconomic spectrum."


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