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01/31/2014 03:57 pm ET

Natural Gas Development Linked To Birth Defects In Colorado: Study

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A new study has found that children born near greater densities of natural gas development sites in Colorado may have an increased risk of some birth defects.

For the study, researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health and Brown University examined more than 124,000 births from 1996-2009 in rural areas in the state.

They found that children born to mothers living in areas that had more than 125 natural gas wells per mile had a 30 percent greater prevalence of congenital heart defects. The kids were also twice as likely to have had a neural tube defect than children born to mothers who lived with no wells within 10 miles of their homes.

The study, published Jan. 28, notes that pollutants -- like toluene, xylenes and benzene -- released by some natural gas drilling operations "are suspected teratogens or mutagens and are known to cross the placenta, raising the possibility of fetal exposure to these and other pollutants resulting from NGD [natural gas development]."

It should be noted, however, that the study doesn't definitively prove that natural gas development causes anything, Lisa McKenzie, lead author and Colorado School of Public Health research associate, told The Huffington Post.

More research is needed to discover whether natural gas projects pose a threat to unborn children, McKenzie said.

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