July 31, 2008

Adverse Birth Effects Linked to Highways

Mothers from affluent neighborhoods near highways face increased odds of low weight babies by 81 percent, Canadian and Australian researchers said.

Researchers at the University of Montreal and University of South Australia said that living near city expressways is associated with adverse birth effects on expectant mothers and their newborns -- and women living closest to expressways are more vulnerable to highway pollution, especially affluent mothers.

Lead author Dr. Melissa Genereux, who completed the research at the University of Montreal, used data from the Quebec birth registry. The research team evaluated statistics from 100,000 new births recorded over a five-year span concentrating on data from Montreal, where highways cut through affluent and poor neighborhoods alike.

Advantaged mothers may be more susceptible to highway pollution, possibly because they have been protected from other hazards present in low income neighborhoods, Genereux, a resident at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, said in a statement. We found a disproportionately high association between living close to a highway and birth complications among affluent mothers.

The findings are published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.