Press Release

Fracking and Newborns: An Impartial Look at a Recent Study

Dec 19, 2017

Last week a new study by Janet Currie, Michael Greenstone, and Katherine Meckel, published in the journal Science Advances, examined possible effects of shale gas development on the birth weight of newborns in Pennsylvania. The study received substantial attention, including critiques from industry advocates.

Today, Resources for the Future (RFF) posted a blog by RFF Senior Fellow Alan Krupnick, RFF Senior Research Associate Daniel Raimi, and RFF Research Assistant Isabel Echarte that provides independent review of the Currie et al. study. The new blog is entitled,,What to Make of the Newest Study Linking Fracking to Low Birth Weight.

The RFF research group concludes that while Currie et al. have made a valuable contribution to the evolving literature on the potential health effects of oil and gas development, there still are important concerns with the study, which they identify.

Among those concerns, for example: “The types of data and analysis used in this study (and many others) do not identify the mechanism … through which shale gas development impacts newborn health outcomes. [and] even if the link between health impacts and fracking were definitive, the policy implications for mitigating these impacts would not be.”

The RFF researchers also note that the industry advocacy group Energy in Depth (EID) published an article entitled “Why You Shouldn’t Believe a New Study Linking Fracking to Infant Health Problems.” The RFF authors point out: “Despite our concerns over this paper, we disagree with the categorical dismissal of the study presented by EID.”

Read the full blog post: What to Make of the Newest Study Linking Fracking to Low Birth Weight.

Resources for the Future does not take institutional positions. Please attribute any findings to the authors or the research itself. For example, use "According to research from RFF …" rather than "According to RFF …".

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Resources for the Future (RFF) is an independent, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, DC, that conducts rigorous economic research and analysis to improve environmental and natural resource policy.