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Coal-Burning Plants Caused Low Birth Weights 30 Miles Away

Women in the counties downwind from the plant had a greater risk for having babies with low or very low weight.

New research by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania and Lehigh University is looking at the impacts of coal-burning plants on the surrounding communities, and the results are a bit astonishing.

According to the Washington Post, the researchers examined the Portland Generating Station in Northampton County, Pennsylvania and its surrounding communities and discovered that women in the counties downwind from the plant had a greater risk for having babies with low or very low weight. But thatโ€™s not all โ€“ the study says that the counties impacted were up to 30 miles away, all the way in New Jersey.

But the scientists wanted to be sure to account for other factors, so they examined the socio-economic makeup of the New Jersey residents in question. What they discovered was that the four counties they studied -- Warren, Morris, Hunterdon and Sussex โ€“ were in a higher income bracket generally than the rest of the nation. The researchers then posited that this eliminates the position that lower income women were giving birth to lower birth weight babies based on lack of access to private health care or prenatal care โ€“ suggesting that the plantโ€™s emissions shoulder major responsibility for the problem.

And while the risk for low birth weights were significantly higher in the counties studied than in other counties of similar affluence, the rates were said to still be much lower than the national average for areas in similar proximity downwind of a coal-fired power plant.

The Portland Generating Station may be off the hook, at least temporarily, as it suspended the use of coal in 2014, when it switched to diesel.

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