Air Pollution Linked to Low Birthweight
Women who are exposed to particulate air pollution emitted by vehicles, urban heating and coal-fired power plants are significantly more likely to have low birthweight babies, a recent study found.
Published Feb. 6 in Environmental Health Perspectives, the study analyzed data collected from more than 3 million births in nine countries at 14 sites in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. The study found the higher the pollution rate, the greater the rate of low birthweight. Low birthweight - a weight below 2,500 grams or 5.5 pounds - is linked to health consequences such as early death and chronic health problems.
No one is immune from particulate air pollution, said study co-principal investigator and APHA member Tracey Woodruff, PhD, MPH, of the University of California San Francisco.
"These microscopic particles, which are smaller than the width of a human hair, are in the air that we all breathe," she said.
Countries with tighter regulations on particulate air pollution have lower levels of those pollutants.
"In the United States, we have shown over the last several decades that the benefits to health and wellbeing from reducing air pollution are far greater than the costs," Woodruff said.
Whether air pollution exposure in pregnancy affects future health is now under study through a followup of some of the children in the low-birthweight study.
Air pollution from vehicles and other sources, including coalfired power plants, can have a negative effect on birthweights, according to a recent study of more than 3 million births.