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Closing coal-burning power plant in China and improved cognitive development in children
Date:7/14/2008

hinese newborns through age two. Children in both cohorts were born in Tongliang, a city with a coal-fired power plant that operated seasonally until it was shutdown by the government in May 2004. The first cohort involved 107 women whose children were born in 2002, prior to the plant closing. The second involved 110 women whose children were born in 2005, when the coal plant was no longer in operation.

"This is a unique environmental intervention study using molecular techniques to demonstrate the relationship between a cleaner environment and healthier children," added Deliang Tang, MD, DrPh, associate professor of clinical Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School, director of the Tongliang Project, and co-author of the study.

Prenatal exposure to plant emissions was measured by a biomarker of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure in umbilical cord blood. The investigators controlled for exposures to other pollutants, such as tobacco smoke and lead, which might have contributed to neurodevelopment problems.

Children in the first cohort had varying exposure prenatally to PAHs emitted by the coal-fired power plant. This exposure was recorded by monitoring the levels of PAHs in air during the mothers' pregnancies and in measuring a marker of PAH exposure in cord blood-- specifically the levels of PAHs bound to DNA, known as "PAH-DNA adducts". Among these children, the researchers found significant associations between the marker of exposure in cord blood and delayed motor and average development at age two. The second group of children, who were conceived after the closure of the plant, had significantly lower levels of the marker in cord blood and their incidence of delayed motor development was one-third that of the first cohort.

Coal-fired power plants provide the majority of the energy for China's industry, as well as the electricity needs of the U.S. The Chinese government has ordered the closure
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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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