Shanxi International Forum on Environment and Health – Translating Science to Policy
Location: Taiyuan, China
Dates: August 12 – 15, 2013
About the Conference
This conference is being hosted by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (the Center), in collaboration with: Shanxi Medical University, Shanghai Fudan University, the Ministry of Education Key Laboratory of Children’s Environmental Health in Shanghai, the Taiyuan Municipality CDC and the China Environment Society. This three-day conference hopes, not only to share research on the effects pollution has on children’s health and development, but also to work towards creating policy suggestions to combat these effects.
The Center has conducted several studies in China in relation to the effects that pollutants from coal burning have on the health and development of children. The first such study was conducted in Tongliang, starting in 2001. The study tracked two cohorts of pregnant women and their children in an area where a coal-fired power plant located in the center of the town was a major source of air pollution. The first cohort was enrolled while the plant was still operational, and the second was enrolled after government authorities shut the facility down. Through this work, we have documented the impacts from in utero exposure to specific emitted pollutants, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in air pollution on children’s health. Some of these effects include smaller head circumference at birth, developmental delays, and increased levels of pro-carcinogenic genetic damage. This study was able to show the power that governmental action can have on the health of the public. The hope of this conference is to devise more policy suggestions to improve the health of the population of China.
Building on this foundation in Tongliang, the Center launched a new serial prospective cohort study in Taiyuan and Changzhi, China. A total of 800 mother-child pairs were enrolled at two different time points, with one group enrolled in 2009 and the other in 2011. One subset was recruited from Taiyuan, the capital of the coal-rich Shanxi Province, and one of the most polluted areas of the country. Changzhi, also located in Shanxi Province, was selected for its lower pollution levels and thus serves as the concurrent control for the study.
There have been several measures undertaken in the Taiyuan, including the shut-down of power plants such as in Tongliang, industrial pollution clean-up initiatives, encouraging innovative technological developments, and holding local leaders responsible for the pollution emitted in their jurisdictions. Our long-term goal is to document the direct benefits of government policies enacted in Taiyuan on air quality, biomarkers of exposure in cord blood, and health and developmental outcomes in the children over time.
The Center’s research in air pollution will not be the only research discussed. There are speakers to talk about everything from BPA to lead. There is time built in for panel discussions to help determine what steps should be taken in terms of changing policies for the sake of public health in China.