Newborn baby

Coal and oil-burning power plants emit pollutants including lead, mercury, and carbon dioxide. A recent study shows that closing these plants can help protect some of the most vulnerable among us: newborn babies.

Casey: “We looked at eight power plants that shut down and we observed a pretty large reduction in preterm birth, comparing before and after among people living nearby.”

That’s Joan Casey of the University of California-Berkeley. Her team looked at rates of premature births among people living within three miles of these California power plants.

Before the plants closed, about seven percent of babies were born preterm. Afterwards, that rate dropped to about five percent. Reductions among African and Asian Americans were even greater.

A premature birth increases a baby’s risk for future medical and developmental problems. So Casey says it’s exciting to learn that there are ways to reduce these risks – and to limit global warming at the same time.

Casey: “We can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by switching off coal power plants and transitioning to other fuel sources, and we, at the same time, could also improve population health.”

Reporting credit: Hannah Breisinger/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Courtesy of David McCarthy.

Sam Harrington

Samantha Harrington

Samantha Harrington, director of audience experience for Yale Climate Connections, is a journalist and graphic designer with a background in digital media and entrepreneurship. Sam is especially interested...