When Children Are Exposed To High Levels Of Lead And Mercury From Coal Emissions, They Get Hurt

Scientists from the New York City-based Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) have studied the positive effects on children of shutting down a coal fired electricity plant in China. Results were published in a peer reviewed journal: Environmental Health Perspectives.

Children born after the closure of a coal-burning plant in China had 60 percent fewer developmental problems, a study released Monday suggests, giving ammunition to those who argue the country should embrace cleaner sources of energy.
Here's the remarkable part. No mention was made in either MSNBC or the similar International Herald Tribune coverage as to exactly which components of coal emissions may have been impacting childhood health. What's Going On?
Well for starters, the dose of "whatever" was high because the Chinese coal fired electricity plant had no stack controls; and, Chinese-supplied coal may contain particularly high heavy levels of mercury, arsenic, lead, fluorides, etc.

As the table shown below the fold clearly indicates, lead and mercury are the hazards of concern. Why would prominent news sources ignore the most interesting aspect of the story?

The good news is, the plant remains shut down. See the CCCEH link here for a summary of the program.

Key questions left open are: what happens to children in China and elsewhere who are continuously exposed to lower doses of coal plant-emitted lead and mercury over their lifetimes? How many other Chinese coal-fired electricity plants similarly lack basic air pollution controls? How long until North American coal plants get mercury pollution controls in place (none currently have them)?

Relative to the latter question, would an economic cost/benefits analysis of replacing coal power with renewable sources discount the future costs of mercury pollution controls that will be obviated by the changeover?

Via::MSNBC, Children, coal don't mix, China study shows sharp drop in developmental problems after power plant was closed. Image credit::MSNBC, via Reuters file photo, Chinese coal plant.

More Information
Both the abstract and full version of the published study are available for free download here. Below is a the table which we mentioned previously, excerpted from the study, listing cord blood levels of mercury and lead.


Learn more about coal in mercury in the TreeHugger archives.
Coal Released Mercury Ruins Fishing and Duck Hunting
What About Mercury From Compact Fluorescents?
Mercury From Chinese Coal Use Pollutes Oregon's Willamette River

Tags: China | Coal | Electricity

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