Fetal defects not linked to gas wells

A state study of anomalies detected in the ultrasounds of 22 fetuses in Garfield County discovered no link among them nor to natural gas drilling.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said Friday that its study of the reports “found no predominant risk factor that was common among the majority” of the affected women, including residence in a single area. The women in the studies were from Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Meeker, Rifle, Silt and Snowmass and underwent ultrasounds in two clinics over three months.

The oil and gas industry “takes health very seriously and (we) are glad that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was able to put at ease those who had concerns,” said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association. “These anomalies are painful for the families who endure them, and our hearts go out to anyone who has to face such challenges, no matter the cause.”

The affected fetuses had cardiac or chromosomal damage.

“We conclude that there is not one single environmental, genetic or substance-related factor that will explain these rare prenatal outcomes,” said the report by the agency.

The women in the study ranged from 20 to 37 years old with 9 percent 35 or older, the high-risk age for defects. Most of them did not live near oil or gas wells and their drinking water contained no contaminants.

The study also ruled out the effects of over-the-counter drugs and certain prescription drugs.

It acknowledged the limitations of certain prenatal tests and of ultrasounds, not all of which were employed at comparable times within the gestational periods of each affected fetus, the report said.

There is no federal database of fetal anomalies by which investigators could determine whether the incidence of cases exceeded that of the general public, the department said.

Of the 22 pregnancies, eight ended in stillbirth or abortion, three were delivered and received medical treatment, and six continued the pregnancy. Two were molar pregnancies, referring to when tissue that normally becomes a fetus becomes an abnormal growth in the uterus, and three women left the area and were lost to the study.


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So are we to believe these 22 cases are unrelated and coincidental?

There are glaring gaps in CDPHE’s report, and what it doesn’t say is far more important that what it does say.

The report did not say the subjects’ water did not contain contaminants.

CDPHE only considered the chemical break-down products of disinfection in the subjects’ water sources, without analyzing for the presence or absence of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), or any of the chemicals the industry uses in fracking.  VOCs are known to be associated with drilling and fracking and to affect pregnancy outcomes.

No effort was made to check the air in the subjects’ dwellings for contaminants. In fact, air quality isn’t even mentioned anywhere in the report.

The agency reports subjects lived a minimum of five miles from active wells, but CDPHE did not mention that there is NO research showing what a safe distance is for a dwelling from oil and gas operations. CDPHE also did not consider subjects’ proximity to storage facilities, pipelines, inactive well sites, etc.

The report is woefully inadequate, which is probably why CDPHE put it on their website without any announcement.

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