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Air Pollution Puts Health of Unborn Babies at Risk, Study Shows
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."
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By Jake Johnson
As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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