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Premature Births Linked to Living Near Power Plants

Health + Wellness
Solar, coal and natural gas are prominent at the Big Bend Power Station and Manatee Viewing Center parking lot in Apollo Beach, FL. Walter / CC BY 2.0

Closing coal- and oil-fired power plants may help decrease the incidence of premature births in surrounding areas, according to new research.


A study published Tuesday in the American Journal of Epidemiology surveyed preterm births in more than 57,000 mothers living near eight power plants in California retired between 2001 and 2011. Researchers found rates of preterm birth decreased after the power plants' closures, with women living within three miles of the power plants experiencing a two percent drop in premature birth rates after the plants' retirement.

As reported by InsideClimate News:

"In an accompanying commentary in the journal, Pauline Mendola, a senior investigator with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, wrote that the methods and creative design of the study add to its importance.

'The authors do an excellent job of testing alternative explanations for the observed associations and examining social factors that might increase vulnerability,' she wrote.

...

'We all breathe. Even small increases in mortality due to ambient air pollution have a large population health impact,' she wrote. 'Of course, we need electricity and there are costs and benefits to all energy decisions, but at some point we should recognize that our failure to lower air pollution results in the death and disability of American infants and children.'"

For a deeper dive:

New York Times, InsideClimate News, The Independent

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