Risk of Abortion and Stillbirth in Cow-Calf Herds Exposed to the Oil and Gas Industry in Western Canada

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To investigate the associations between emissions from oil and gas field facilities and fetal survival, researchers followed more than 28,000 beef cows from the beginning of the breeding season through calving. They prospectively measured exposure to sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and volatile organic compounds and linked them to the location of individual cattle; they used the density of oil and gas well sites surrounding each pasture as an alternate measure of exposure. The researchers measured the risks of abortion and stillbirth in 203 cow-calf herds for the 2002 calving season, as well as animal and herd-management factors known or suspected to affect these parameters. Using mixed models to adjust for clustering by herd and after accounting for other known risk factors, they examined the associations between exposure to sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds measured as benzene and toluene, hydrogen sulfide, and well-site density, and the risks of abortion and stillbirth. There was no evidence across the measured range of exposures that emissions of sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds measured as benzene or toluene, or well-site density increased the risk of either abortion or stillbirth in these beef herds.

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