Impact of coal-fired power plant emissions on children’s health: A systematic review of the epidemiological literature

Eric Amster, Clara Lew Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Coal-based energy production is the most utilized method of electricity production worldwide and releases the highest concentration of gaseous, particulate, and metallic pollutants. This article aims to systematically review the public health impact of coal-fired power plant emissions on children’s health. PubMed, Web of Science, and Toxline databases were queried for the past 20 years. Inclusion criteria included original scientific articles with (a) coal-fired power plant exposure assessment, (b) at least one primary pediatric health outcome, and (c) assessment of potential sources of confounding and bias. Only morbidity and mortality studies were included; economic analysis and risk assessment studies without a primary health outcome were not included. Of 513 articles initially retrieved, 17 epidemiological articles were included in the final systematic review after screening and eligibility. The articles reviewed showed a statistically significant adverse effect on pediatric neurodevelopment; birth weight and pediatric respiratory morbidity was associated with exposure to coal-fired power plant emissions, primarily particulate matter and polyaromatic hydrocarbon exposure. There is a lack of consistency of exposure assessment and inadequate control of significant potential confounders such as social economic status. Future research should focus on improving exposure assessment models with an emphasis on source-apportionment and geographic information system methods to model power plant-specific emissions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2008
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Air pollution
  • Coal energy
  • Particulates
  • Pediatric health
  • Power plants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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