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Shale Gas Development and Infant Health: Evidence from Pennsylvania

This research exploits the introduction of shale gas wells in Pennsylvania in response to growing controversy around the drilling method of hydraulic fracturing. Using detailed location data on maternal address and GIS coordinates of gas wells, this study examines singleton births to mothers residing close to a shale gas well from 2003-2010 in Pennsylvania. The introduction of drilling increased low birth weight and decreased term birth weight on average among mothers 2.5 km of a well compared to mothers 2.5 km of a future well. Adverse effects were also detected using measures such as small for gestational age and APGAR scores, while no effects on gestation periods were found. These results are robust to other measures of infant health, many changes in specification and falsification tests. These results do not differ across water source (i.e. public piped water vs. ground well water) and suggest that the mechanism is air pollution or stress from localized economic activity. These findings suggest that shale gas development poses significant risks to human health and have policy implications for regulation of shale gas development.

Bibliography:
Elaine L. Hill
Shale Gas Development and Infant Health: Evidence from Pennsylvania
Working Paper
The Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853-7801 USA, December 2013

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