Proximity to coal-fired power plants and neurobehavioral symptoms in children

Academic Article


  • Background: Coal-fired power plants are a major source of air pollution that can impact children’s health. Limited research has explored if proximity to coal-fired power plants contributes to children’s neurobehavioral disorders. Objective: This community-based study collected primary data to investigate the relationships of residential proximity to power plants and neurobehavioral problems in children. Methods: 235 participants aged 6–14 years who lived within 10 miles of two power plants were recruited. Exposure to particulate matter ≤10 μm (PM10) was measured in children’s homes using personal modular impactors. Neurobehavioral symptoms were assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Multiple regression models were performed to test the hypothesized associations between proximity/exposure and neurobehavioral symptoms. Geospatial statistical methods were used to map the spatial patterns of exposure and neurobehavioral symptoms. Results: A small proportion of the variations of neurobehavioral problems (social problems, affective problems, and anxiety problems) were explained by the regression models in which distance to power plants, traffic proximity, and neighborhood poverty was statistically associated with the neurobehavioral health outcomes. Statistically significant hot spots of participants who had elevated levels of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, and social problems were observed in the vicinity of the two power plants. Significance: Results of this study suggest an adverse impact of proximity to power plants on children’s neurobehavioral health. Although coal-fired power plants are being phased out in the US, health concern about exposure from coal ash storage facilities remains. Furthermore, other countries in the world are increasing coal use and generating millions of tons of pollutants and coal ash. Findings from this study can inform public health policies to reduce children’s risk of neurobehavioral symptoms in relation to proximity to power plants.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Zhang CH; Sears L; Myers JV; Brock GN; Sears CG; Zierold KM
  • Start Page

  • 124
  • End Page

  • 134
  • Volume

  • 32
  • Issue

  • 1