Resources for Parents
If your child’s home or school is located near shale gas development (SGD), they may be exposed to toxic pollutants. This section includes an overview of the health conditions associated with shale gas development, as well as resources for you and your child’s health care providers.
Children may be exposed in a variety of ways to SGD-related toxic pollutants. You can learn more about exposure pathways by visiting our health impacts page.
Children at Special Risk
For many reasons, children are at a higher risk than adults for experiencing adverse health effects from toxic chemicals associated with SGD:
Children have higher respiratory rates than adults and breathe in more pollution per pound of body weight than adults.
Children’s still-developing brains are at risk from certain toxic agents known to interfere with developmental processes.
Children’s immature immune systems are less able than adults' to detoxify and excrete pollutants.
Children spend more time outdoors on grass, playing fields, and play equipment where pollutants may be present.
Children’s hand-to-mouth contact is more frequent, exposing them to pollutants through ingestion.
How Pollutants Can Affect Children
Researchers have documented health effects from chemicals used in SGD in many systems of the body, including the ears, nose and throat, skin, lungs, and nervous system. Some of the associated chemicals and produced emissions may have potential long-term effects, such as heart disease and cancer, but many reported health effects are likely to be short-term or to resolve when away from the emissions source.
Some common complaints associated with SGD exposure include:
Trouble with sleep
Shortness of breath
How Pollutants Can Affect Pregnant Individuals
SGD can pose serious health threats to those who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. In a 2014 review, researchers found that chemicals used in SGD are linked with the following health problems:
Miscarriage and stillbirth
Impaired fetal growth
Low birth weight
Premature or delayed sexual development
Another study found that the number of nearby wells and distance from wells can impact health outcomes.
Babies born to mothers living near gas wells were more likely to have neural tube defects like spina bifida than those living with no wells within a 10-mile radius. The study also found that the risk of congenital heart defects was 38 percent higher for children living near wells.
What You Can Do
Let your health care provider know if you have concerns about your environmental conditions.
Keep a health diary for your child. Include dates, symptoms, and any environmental conditions (e.g., water changes, flares, odors) that you notice. You can share this information with your child’s doctor.
Monitor your air and water—especially if you use well water—and keep records of the results.
Find an alternative water source for drinking, cooking, and bathing if you have serious concerns about the quality of your well water.
Know what types of SGD facilities are located near your home and school.
Encourage your school to cancel or reduce outdoor activities (or cancel school altogether) if dangerous pollution episodes occur.
Encourage your school to minimize airflow through effective sealing and properly operated and maintained HVAC systems to ensure pollution control.
Urge your school to use healthy cleaning products and limit the number of toxic chemicals used inside and outside.
Educate yourself about emergency preparedness plans for your school and community.
Make sure that your pediatrician and school nurse are aware of the health risks associated with SGD.