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Bret Hanna
Bret Hanna
Attorney • 435-649-2525

Is There a Connection Between Bad Air and a Spike in Baby Deaths?

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I’ve written recently about poor air quality issues in the basins of northern Utah and, ultimately, the Utah Legislature’s abject failure in crafting policy or legislation to deal with the issue.  It happened again this year, with no meaningful bills aimed at cleaning up Utah’s air being forwarded to the governor for signature.  The irony?  Utah is the quintessential pro-family state, but there may be a link between poor air quality and a spike in baby deaths in one basin that perennially suffers from some of the worst air in the country.

The Uinta Basin in northeast Utah is a boom region for oil and gas production.  The upside is the economic boon that production brings to the region, the downside is the pollution that production brings to the region.  That pollution, coupled with the geographic formation of the basin that traps air in the lower levels of the atmosphere regularly during winter months, may be a recipe for disaster for newborns in the region.

A recent study by state epidemiologists confirms what those in the local birthing field already suspected – more babies in the Uinta Basin died two years ago than in other areas of the state.  The state epidemiologist that reported the findings, however, stopped short of sounding an alarm.  He found the adverse birth outcomes notable, although not statistically significant, but indicated they should be concerning if a pattern develops over time.

The Utah Department of Health has indicated that it will review data again in two years and monitor data as it becomes available for the region.  Is that enough?  Utah clean air advocates think not, but local health officials think it is.  If you want to decide for yourself, you can find the study here.

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