I had to read this one a few times before it really sunk in.
Researchers at Columbia University's Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) have released a study concluding that closing coal-fired power plants can have a direct, positive impact on a child's brain development.
Science Daily is reporting that the study, to be released in the July 14th edition of Environmental Health Perspectives:
"... allowed researchers to track and compare the development of two groups of children born in Tongliang, a city in China's Chongqing Municipality -- one in utero while a coal-fired power plant was operating in the city and one in utero after the Chinese government had closed the plant."
The results look pretty clear:
The group of children exposed to coal-burning emisssions while still in their mother's womb had significantly lower average developmental scores and reduced motor development at age two.
In the group of children not exposed to coal-burning emissions, did not have these adverse effects; and the frequency of delayed motor developmental was significantly reduced.
"These findings have major implications for environmental health and energy policy as they demonstrate that reduction in dependence on coal for energy can have a measurable positive impact on children's development and health -- in China and elsewhere," said Frederica Perera, professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health, director of the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health, and lead author of the study.
On the CCCEH study, Dan Fagan writes in a very extensive article in Scientific American that:
"The complexities and uncertainties of molecular epidemiology, Perera says, should not obscure the overall message of the data she has accumulated during 29 years spent studying the health effects of air pollution in Finland, Poland, China and her own neighborhood near Columbia in upper Manhattan. That message is as relevant in developed nations as it is in heavily polluted China, she explains..." [my emphasis]
Earlier work on the health impacts on children of coal-plant emissions by the CCEH has found that:
(1) Newborns with high levels of prenatal exposure to air pollution from coal burning have smaller head circumference at birth and lower growth rate in childhood. Such early exposures can set the stage before a baby is even born for increased cancer risk, asthma, and cognitive delay, the effects of which can play out over an entire lifetime.
(2) Newborns in the first cohort (those who were in utero during operation of the coal burning power plant) had higher levels of DNA damage due to prenatal exposure to PAHs than newborns in either New York City or Krakow, Poland.
(3) Children with the highest estimated exposure to PAH from power plant emission had significantly worse performance on developmental tests at age two years.
(4) Respiratory problems are found to be more prevalent in children who were in utero while the power plant was operational.