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Texas Standard interviewed Lara Cushing, associate professor of environmental health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, who co-led a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives that found the risk of premature births is 50% higher for mothers near natural gas flaring in Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale oil and gas region.
In the mid 2010s, the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas was among the most productive oil and gas fields in the world. Hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, allowed drillers to tap previously inaccessible fossil fuels, locked underground. But there was a cost. A new report shows a higher rate of premature births among mothers in the region who lived near sites where drillers burn off excess natural gas – what’s called flaring.
Lara Cushing is one of the authors of the study. She is an environmental health scientist at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Cushing told Texas Standard host David Brown on Monday that while flaring has been suspected of having links to negative health consequences, no known studies had been done on the topic before the current work by UCLA scientists.
“Our goal with this study was to look at adverse birth outcomes,” Cushing said. “And what we found was… a higher rate of preterm births among mothers who lived within about three miles of a large amount of flaring activity.”