Woman with mask

Coal-burning power plants emit air pollution that harms people’s health. So, when a plant in Tongliang, China, was scheduled to close in 2004, researchers wondered how the change in air quality would affect the health of children born in the surrounding city.

Frederica Perera is the director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health. She studied two groups of children from Tongliang: one born two years before the power plant closed, and one born a year after the closure.

Perera: “We compared not only the birth outcomes but also the neurodevelopmental outcomes in the children who were assessed at two years of age.”

The findings were significant. Perera says children born before the coal plant closed had higher rates of delayed motor development than children born after the plant closed. And their umbilical cord blood had lower levels of a protein critical to brain development.

She says the research provides clear evidence that air pollution from burning fossil fuels harms children. But:

Perera: “I think the most important message is that changes can be made, can have immediate benefits to children’s health and their future.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

Sarah Kennedy

Sarah Kennedy is an editor and content producer with ChavoBart Digital Media (CBDM), a production firm with a focus on scientific and environmental media. Her work on Climate Connections includes developing...