I looked more attempts to link the drilling method to birth defects and, as it turns out, there have been efforts to do so before. During February of this year a University of Colorado study was released that concluded that birth defects among mothers who lived close to natural gas wells occurred 30 percent more than those who did not.
According to a Colorado public television station Rocky Mountain News, the research was conducted by researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health and published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The study claimed that mothers who lived within 10 miles of natural gas wells were more likely to give birth to babies with heart defects. The manuscript, however, did not prove that fracking caused birth defects. The research was so questionable that Colorado’s health chief, Larry Wolk, poo-poohed the findings, issuing a press release urging people not to jump to conclusions.
Wolk not only criticized the study but also demonstrated its flawed conclusions. He pointed out that the research ignored other factors that lead to birth defects, but also described:
Inactive wells weren’t distinguished from active wells, Wolk noted, while findings on neural tube defects didn’t account for factors like prenatal health care, drinking or smoking. On top of that, the study only made use of the mothers’ addresses at the time of their babies’ birth, and didn’t account for women who might have moved after the first trimester, when most birth defects occur.
“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,” said Wolk. “Many factors known to contribute to birth defects were ignored in this study.”
While the events in Colorado are not directly tied to environmentalists, they have done this sort of thing in the past. The neonic pesticide scandal in Europe involving scientists connected to an influential environmentalist group planning to convince European Union regulators to ban neonic pesticides. Based on these two prior incidents of obvious scientific political advocacy using questionable data, there should be no doubt the two recent stories highlighting a study alleging similar results as the Colorado data but were not peer reviewed. The two stories I wrote about posted at US News and World Report and The Huffington Post are political advocacy on the part of scientists involved in the research and reporters who wrote about the manuscript’s findings. This is another attempt to commit fraud in order to advance a political agenda using the mantle of science.