BackgroundStudies suggest associations between oil and gas development (OGD) and adverse birth outcomes, but few epidemiological studies of oil wells or inactive wells exist, and none in California.
ObjectiveOur study aimed to investigate the relationship between residential proximity to OGD and birth outcomes in California.
MethodsWe conducted a retrospective cohort study of 2,918,089 births to mothers living within 10 km of at least one production well between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2015. We estimated exposure during pregnancy to inactive wells count (no inactive wells, 1 well, 2-5 wells, 6+ wells) and production volume from active wells in barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) (no BOE, 1-100 BOE/day, >100 BOE/day). We used generalized estimating equations to examine associations between overall and trimester-specific OGD exposures and term birth weight (tBW), low birth weight (LBW), preterm birth (PTB), and small for gestational age birth (SGA). We assessed effect modification by urban/rural community type.
ResultsAdjusted models showed exposure to active OGD was associated with adverse birth outcomes in rural areas; effect estimates in urban areas were close to null. In rural areas, increasing production volume was associated with stronger adverse effect estimates. High (>100 BOE/day) vs. no production throughout pregnancy was associated with increased odds of LBW [odds ratio (OR)=1.40, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.14, 1.71] and SGA (OR=1.22, 95% CI: 1.02, 1.45), and decreased tBW (mean difference = -36 grams, 95% CI: -54, -17), but not with PTB (OR=1.03, 95% CI: 0.91, 1.18).
ConclusionProximity to higher production OGD in California was associated with adverse birth outcomes among mothers residing in rural areas. Future studies are needed to confirm our findings in other populations and improve exposure assessment measures. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP5842.