Coal

Want healthier babies? Shut down coal plants

Two studies in the past month show significantly fewer health risks for babies after nearby coal plants close

NEW YORK, NY — “Babies born near an active coal plant in China had shorter telomeres—sections of DNA that act as caps on the ends of chromosomes—than babies born after the plant shut down, according to a study released today.

The study is the first to show toxics from coal burning may spur shorter telomeres in newborns and adds to a massive body of evidence that closing down plants gives babies a greater chance at a healthy life. Shorter telomeres are linked with a host of health problems, including cancer, heart disease, brain decline, aging and premature death.

‘This is a good news story,’ said lead author, Frederica Perera, a professor and researcher at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health. ‘The benefits of policies that close down plants are reflected at the molecular level.’

The findings come just weeks after a similar report found after a Pennsylvania power plant stopped burning coal and sending toxic air into nearby New Jersey, babies’ birth weights returned to healthy levels and more pregnant women carried babies full-term. When the plant—the Portland Generating Plant—burned coal, pregnant women downwind had high rates of pre-term births and babies with low birth weights.”

— Brian Bienkowski, Environmental Health News

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