A new international study led by Tracey Woodruff, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco and Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, of the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Spain links a pregnant woman’s exposure to smog with a greater risk of having low weight babies (less than 5.5 lbs). Specifically, particulate air pollution refers to tiny particles emitted by vehicles, coal power plants and other sources. Low birth weight can lead to increased likelihood of complications and death after birth, as well as chronic health problems later in life.
According to their report in the researchers analyzed data from more than 3 million births in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia and found that “ the greater the amount of particulate pollution, the higher the rate of low weight infants.
However, they were quick to clarify their findings by stating, “although they show an association between air pollution and low birth weight, it doesn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship.”
"What's significant is that these are air-pollution levels to which practically everyone in the world is commonly exposed," stated Tracey Woodruff. "These microscopic particles, which are smaller than the width of a human hair, are in the air that we all breathe."
Woodruff noted that nations with tighter regulations on particulate air pollution have lower levels of these pollutants.
"In the United States, we have shown over the last several decades that the benefits to health and well-being from reducing air pollution are far greater than the costs," Woodruff said. "This is a lesson that all nations can learn."
In addition, Nieuwenhuijsen cited the recent exceedingly high levels of particulate air pollution in Beijing, and called for government environmental policymakers to act swiftly "From the perspective of world health, levels like this are obviously completely unsustainable," he said.
Readers can learn more about health issues facing low weight babies by contacting the March of Dimes, 867 Main St. #2, Manchester, CT 06040 860 812-0064.
SOURCE: University of California, San Francisco, news release, Feb. 6, 2013