Bad Air Quality Ups Risk For Premature Birth

A new study claims that air pollution can leave women with a 30 percent higher risk of giving birth prematurely.

The study focused on 100,000 births and found that “toxic” chemicals emitted by urban traffic damages the health of unborn babies as well as their mothers.

“Air pollution is known to be associated with low birth weight and premature birth,” Dr Beate Ritz from the University of California said in a statement. “Our results show that traffic-related polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are of special concern as pollutants, and that PAH sources besides traffic contributed to premature birth.”

The researchers looked at the births registered within five miles of air quality monitoring stations in Los Angeles County.

They used information from health officials about the babies and their mothers together with air pollution levels to work out the effects.

The researchers found that exposure to “critical pollutants” like PAH led to a 30 percent increase in risk of giving birth prematurely 

Chemicals produced by diesel fumes were associated with a 10 percent higher risk of premature birth, while ammonium nitrate fine particles were linked to a 21 percent increase

“The increase in premature birth risk due to ammonium nitrate particles suggests secondary pollutants are also negatively impacting the health of unborn babies,” Ritz said in a statement.  “To reduce the effects of these pollutants on public health, it is important that accurate modeling of local and regional spatial and temporal air pollution be incorporated into pollution policies.”

The study was published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Environmental Health.

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