**Gas Leak Link to Preterm Births, Low-Weight Babies Shocks Pregnant Women**

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A recent study conducted by UCLA researchers has shed light on the startling health consequences of the massive gas leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in 2015. Pregnant women residing near the facility during and after the blowout faced a significantly elevated risk of giving birth to premature infants and underweight newborns compared to their counterparts in other regions of Los Angeles County.

The Impact on Birth Weights: A Staggering Statistic

The study’s findings are alarming: women who lived in proximity to Aliso Canyon during the gas leak had a whopping 50% higher chance of having low-birthweight babies than mothers in other localities. This disparity is particularly concerning since low-weight infants are disproportionately vulnerable to health complications, developmental issues, and cognitive deficits.

Preterm Births: A Serious Concern

Premature birth rates also exhibited a troubling increase among women living near the gas facility. For those who conceived their babies directly after the gas leak was finally sealed in 2016, “the prevalence of premature births was about 50% higher than expected,” according to Dr. Kimberly Paul, an epidemiologist and assistant professor of neurology at UCLA.

Health Risks for Developing Children

The heightened occurrence of premature births and underweight newborns underscores the grave risks that environmental pollution poses to the health of expecting mothers and their developing children. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), preterm birth complications are a leading cause of death among children under the age of 5. Additionally, low-weight infants have an increased risk of cognitive impairments, motor delays, and psychological issues.

Studying the Long-Term Effects

The UCLA study is part of the ongoing Aliso Canyon Disaster Health Research Project, which aims to comprehensively investigate the short-term and long-term health effects of the gas leak on nearby residents. Researchers are examining a wide range of health indicators, including premature births, birth weights, cancer incidence, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations for various health conditions.

Resident Concerns and Questions

Residents in impacted areas like Porter Ranch have expressed concerns that the study’s findings only “scratch the surface” of the potential health risks. They urge researchers to delve deeper, particularly into the long-term health implications for the community.

Aliso Canyon above Porter Ranch on Monday, August 7, 2023. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
Aliso Canyon above Porter Ranch on Monday, August 7, 2023. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Research Methodology and Limitations

The UCLA study compiled birth records from October 2010 to October 2019 to analyze births before, during, and after the gas leak among women living near the Aliso Canyon facility. Researchers compared the outcomes for women within a 6-mile radius of the facility to those residing further away.

It’s important to note that the study’s findings have yet to be peer-reviewed and may be subject to change. Nevertheless, the data presented highlights the urgent need for further research to fully understand the long-term health consequences of the gas leak and to develop appropriate strategies to protect the health of nearby residents.