Quantcast
Health

Air Pollution Puts Health of Unborn Babies at Risk, Study Shows

We already know that air pollution is bad for our lungs, but a new study shows that air pollution can even harm a baby that hasn't left the womb.

Researchers at Imperial College London have found an association between exposure to road traffic pollution and an increased risk of low birth weights at term.


A low birth weight, which is less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces, can lead to health issues for some babies, such as breathing problems, an increased risk of infection, and low blood sugar. In the long term, babies born with a low birth weight are more likely than babies born at a normal weight to have diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and other health conditions.

While the current study was conducted in London, the authors pointed out that their findings also apply to other cities around the world and are calling on governments to tackle the issue of highly polluting vehicles in urban areas.

The research, published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal, comes at the same time that a new Unicef analysis determined that 17 million babies under the age of one are breathing toxic air, which could cause damage to brain tissue and impair cognitive development.

For the British study, researchers analyzed the birth weights of 540,000 babies born between 2006 and 2010 to mothers living in the greater London area. They then compared that information to the concentrations of traffic pollution at the maternal home addresses.

Results showed that for every 5 microgram per cubic meter increase in PM 2.5 (aka fine particulate matter), the risk of low birth weight increased by 15 percent.

British Medical Journal

In an article about the study, the New York Times noted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's standard for PM 2.5 is 12 micrograms per cubic meter averaged over three years. The World Health Organization standard is lower, with a limit of 10 micrograms per cubic meter.

However, there really is no safe level of air pollution, as study author Mireille B. Toledano, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, explained to the Times.

“For every 10 percent reduction in PM 2.5," she said, “we can prevent 90 babies being born with low birth weight in London. The current limits are not protecting pregnant women, and they're not protecting unborn babies."

"The results from this large study add to a growing body of evidence on the association between air pollution from road traffic and its adverse impact on babies' health, even before they are born," Dr. Patrick O'Brien, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said in an emailed statement to WebMD.

“It should place renewed pressure on Governments to adopt meaningful environmental health policies to reduce air pollution and give babies a healthier start in life."

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Christy Williams / WWF

Celebrating the Biggest Conservation Wins of 2017

It's been a big year for conservation.

Together we assured the world that the U.S. is still an ally in the fight against climate change through the We Are Still In movement, a coalition of more than 2,500 American leaders outside of the federal government who are still committed to meeting climate goals. WWF's activists met with legislators to voice their support for international conservation funding. And we ensured that Bhutan's vast and wildlife-rich areas remain protected forever through long-term funding.

Keep reading... Show less
Pexels

Cell Phone Radiation Risks: California Issues Groundbreaking Guidelines

By Olga Naidenko

This week, California officially issued groundbreaking guidelines advising cell phone users to keep phones away from their bodies and limit use when reception is weak. State officials caution that studies link radiation from long-term cell phone use to an increased risk of brain cancer, lower sperm counts and other health problems, and note that children's developing brains could be at greater risk.

Keep reading... Show less

3 Extreme Weather Events in 2016 'Could Not Have Happened' Without Climate Change, Scientists Say

Three of 2016's extreme weather events would have been impossible without human-caused climate change, according to new research.

The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society published a collection of papers Wednesday focused on examining the effect of climate change on 27 extreme weather events last year. The research found that climate change was a "significant driver" in 21 of these weather disasters, and that three events—the temperatures making 2016 the hottest year on record, the heat wave over Asia in the spring, and a "blob" of extremely warm water in the Pacific—"could not have happened" without climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Alan Schmierer

These Butterflies Have Lawyers

By John R. Platt

Don't mess with Texas butterflies. They have lawyers.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Renewable Energy
The price of offshore wind energy has dropped significantly in recent years. Wikimedia Commons

Netherlands Launches Landmark Zero-Subsidy Wind Power Auction

The Netherlands has launched the world's first “zero subsidy" tender on Friday to build 700 megawatts of offshore wind. Shortly after the announcement, the country already found its first bidder.

Zero subsidy tenders have been labeled as a “game-changer" for the sector because it means that potential bidders would rely solely on wholesale electricity prices without financial aid from the government.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy
India is betting on a "green future" through clean energy and low carbon innovation. UK Department for International Development / Flickr

World's Largest Solar-Wind-Storage Plant Planned for India

A wind, solar and battery storage plant is being planned for the southeastern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, which has faced power woes in recent months due to grid failure.

The renewable energy facility will consist of 120 megawatts of solar, 40 megawatts of wind, 20-40 megawatt-hours of battery backup and will be spread over 1,000 acres in the district of Anantapur.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

How Cities Can Meat the Climate Challenge

By Kari Hamerschlag and Christopher D. Cook

Addressing a crowd of mayors gathered in his hometown last week, former President Obama called on the "new faces of American leadership" on climate change to take swift action to spare our children and grandchildren from a climate catastrophe. Twenty-five U.S. mayors signed the "Chicago Charter," affirming a commitment from their cities to meet the Paris agreement target for greenhouse gas reductions by 2025.

Keep reading... Show less
Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska. Plants on the Arctic tundra absorb mercury from the air, then transfer it to soil when they die. Paxson Woelber / Flickr

Mercury From Industrialized Nations Is Polluting the Arctic—Here’s How It Gets There

By Daniel Obrist

Scientists have long understood that the Arctic is affected by mercury pollution, but know less about how it happens. Remote, cold and seemingly pristine, why is such an idyllic landscape so contaminated with this highly toxic metal?

I recently returned from a two-year research project in Alaska, where I led field research into this issue alongside fellow scientists from the University of Colorado; the University of Nevada's Desert Research Institute; the University of Toulouse and the Sorbonne University in France; and the Gas Technology Institute in Illinois.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!