Air pollution is causing millions of babies to be born less developed, warns a study

in science •  7 days ago

The pollution of the air produced by the traffic of the cities is not only heating the planet, it is also damaging the development of millions of children all over the world, even those who have not yet been born.

A London study suggests that toxic air in the city adversely affects the fetal growth of the unborn without their mothers being able to do anything about it. The researchers analyzed the more than 540,000 births in Greater London over the past four years and determined that there is a link between the air pollution that pregnant women breathe and the births of underweight babies, that is, with less than 2.5 kg. The study found that the risk of being born with low weight increases by 15% for every five additional micrograms of fine contaminant particles in each cubic meter of air.

In London, pregnant women are exposed to an average of 15 μg / m3 of fine contaminant particles, well below the legal limits of the United Kingdom but 5 μg / m3 above the guidelines of the World Health Organization. That implies that only 2.5% of full-term babies in London come to the world with low birth weight (about 300-350 births per year that could be avoided by reducing pollution). However, in many cities around the world, especially in South Asia, pollution levels in the air are much higher. Scientists talk about millions of babies not at risk. "A global health catastrophe," they add.

Being born with low weight increases the risk of infant mortality and suffering from cardiovascular diseases or chronic diseases such as diabetes. To make matters worse, there is no reliable method to avoid chronic exposure to toxic air, so it is up to governments to reduce the pollution caused by vehicles and other sources. "It is an unacceptable situation that there are factors that a woman can not control and that negatively affect her baby before birth," says Mireille Toledano, who led the research published in the British Medical Journal.

In another report published this week by Unicef, experts explain that breathing toxic air particles can damage the brain tissue of children and weaken their cognitive development, which has serious consequences for the rest of their lives. Globally, 2 billion children (90% of all children) are exposed to air pollution above WHO guidelines. Among them, almost 17 million are under one year old living in areas where air pollution is at least six times higher than international limits.

According to Unicef, adopting measures to reduce pollution levels and at the same time betting on renewable energy sources is not only vital for the health of children: it is beneficial for society in general while reducing medical costs, increasing productivity and creates safer and cleaner environments for all.

[British Medical Journal via The Guardian]

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