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Exposure to Air Pollution Linked to Poor Birth Outcomes

Nearly 6 million premature births and almost 3 million underweight babies globally estimated to be attributable to air pollution in 2019

TUESDAY, Oct. 5, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Air pollution exposure is associated with preterm births and lower birth weight, according to a review published online Sept. 28 in PLOS Medicine.

Rakesh Ghosh, Ph.D., from the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues conducted a systematic literature review and meta-regression to estimate the global burden of low birth weight (LBW) and preterm birth (PTB) and impacts on reduced birth weight and gestational age (GA) attributable to ambient and household particulate matter <2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) pollution in 2019.

The researchers found that pooled estimates indicate that 22 grams lower birth weight, an 11 percent greater risk for LBW, and a 12 percent greater risk for PTB are associated with each 10 μg/m3 increment in ambient PM2.5. Globally, an estimated population-weighted mean lowering of birth weight by 89 g and GA by 3.4 weeks was attributable to total PM2.5 in 2019. An estimated 15.6 percent of all LBW and 35.7 percent of all PTB infants globally were attributable to total PM2.5, equivalent to 2.76 million and 5.87 million infants in 2019, respectively. Ambient exposure is thought to account for about one-third of the total PM2.5 burden for LBW and PTB.

“With this new, global and more rigorously generated evidence, air pollution should now be considered a major driver of infant morbidity and mortality, not just of chronic adult diseases,” Ghosh said in a statement. “Our study suggests that taking measures to mitigate climate change and reduce air pollution levels will have significant health co-benefit for newborns.”

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