The Skywriter

Want smarter kids? Stop burning coal


Want smarter kids? Stop burning coal


Add another bullet to the standard warnings to pregnant women about alcohol and cigarettes—stay away from coal power plants!

Closing coal-fired power plants can have a direct, positive impact on children’s cognitive development and health according to a study released by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health...

Among the first group of children, prenatal exposure to coal-burning emissions was associated with significantly lower average developmental scores and reduced motor development at age two. [emphasis added] In the second unexposed group, these adverse effects were no longer observed; and the frequency of delayed motor developmental was significantly reduced. (h/t Climate Progress)

An estimated 3-4% of the 4 million babies born in the U.S. every year suffer from some kind of neurodevelopmental disability, which have been associated with a wide range of toxic chemicals. We can now safely add coal to that list. Since the Columbia researchers controlled for exposures to other pollutants, such as tobacco smoke and lead, it's theoretically possible that we could find out how coal is affecting kids in the U.S. if the study were replicated here. In the meantime, we can only speculate as to how many children have cognitive development problems because of coal plants.

Not that we need more reasons to stop building coal power plants, of course. But this study does serve to confirm the fact that burning coal is just a bad idea all around—so bad that it may be affecting us in ways we don't even know yet.

In a recent CNN/Opinion Research poll, 87% of Americans ranked education as either an "extremely important" or "very important" election issue in 2008. If we truly care about our children's mental health and educational development, here's a way to start working on those: No more coal-powered plants!

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