What is going on in Utah's Uinta Basin to explain newborn babies dying? An abrupt surge in teenage mothers, drug, alcohol use? No evidence of that. Is there a genetic explanation? Genes don't change that quickly. Is there a sudden onset of medical incompetence by the area's health-care providers?
No reason to think so. That leaves one other possibility. Is there something happening in the environment? As a matter of fact, yes.
Major cities with pollution problems have either high ozone, like Los Angeles, or high particulate pollution, like Salt Lake City, depending on the time of year. But the Uinta Basin has both simultaneously, making it unique and the most polluted part of the state. Studies suggest that the two may act synergistically to impair human health. Add to that high levels of the by-products of every phase of the oil and gas fracking extraction process - diesel emissions and hazardous compounds like benzene, toluene and naphthene, and you have a uniquely toxic air pollution brew in Vernal.
Inhaling air pollution has the same systemic health consequences as cigarette smoking, only to a lesser degree - unless you're doing your inhaling in Beijing, China, then eliminate the "lesser." The signature physiologic consequence of air pollution, be it from smoke stacks, tail pipes, fracking or cigarettes, is an inflammatory response that reduces blood flow. Diseases of virtually every organ system can follow.
Strokes, heart attacks, every type of lung disease, cognitive impairment, cancer, accelerated aging and sudden death, including infant mortality, all occur at higher rates among people exposed to air pollution. In the case of a pregnant mother, the placenta is compromised for the same reason, and it should be easily understood then that pregnancy complications and impaired fetal development - think birth defects, miscarriages and stillbirths - can be the result. Many epidemiological studies show that to be the case. That increased infant mortality in the Uinta Basin could be the result of the increased air pollution is suggested by medical research. It is not only plausible, but very likely.
But there is more to the story, much more.