Coal Power Plants Linked To Low Birth Weight

Posted: Apr 4 2017, 2:03am CDT | by , Updated: Apr 4 2017, 2:10am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Coal Power Plants Linked to Low Birth Weight
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Switching to coal-fired power in Tennessee after a nuclear accident in 1979 led to a sharp fall in birthweight in the region

Two large nuclear power plants in United State’s Tennessee Valley were closed after The Three Mile Island nuclear incident in 1979. In response to that shutdown, electricity generation shifted to coal-fired power plants within the southern state, which substantially increased air pollution in the region.

The increasing particle pollution from coal smoke is already associated with elevated risk of birth defects and a new research suggests that coal-fired plants could also lead to reduced birth weight. Researchers have found that in Tennessee counties that experienced the greatest increases in air pollution levels following the nuclear shutdown, average birth weight fall by about 5%. This is well below the normal weight than in the areas which are not subjected to similar pollution.

Sharp fall in birth weight is a key indicator of future health outcomes and can result in illness, breathing problem and significantly higher risk of infection.

“Average birth weight declined approximately 134 grams (4.7 ounces) after the nuclear shutdown,” said Edson Severnini, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “In the most affected places, “infant health may have deteriorated.”

The fresh evidence sparks debate over the hazards of turning to coal power plants and the health risks associated with coal versus nuclear energy. Nuclear plants produce virtually no greenhouse gas emissions or air pollutants during power generation. Coal plants, on the other hand, are a top source of carbon dioxide emission, which is the primary cause of global warming. A standard coal plant generates 3.5 million tons of carbon dioxide every year.

Coal smoke also produces harmful chemicals like carbon monoxide, lead and arsenic which can lead to chronic respiratory diseases and even premature deaths. Researchers estimate that in India and China alone, more than 200,000 people prematurely due to coal pollution. So, burning coal for generating electricity could cause severe chemical reactions and may end up exacerbating health issues.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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