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Mothers Exposed to Air Pollution may have Babies with Low Birth Weight

Update Date: Feb 06, 2013 08:47 AM EST

Pregnant women who inhale a specific air pollutant released by vehicles and other air pollution sources might give birth to children who have significantly low birth weight, a study finds.

The study was led by Tracey J. Woodruff, PhD, MPH, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at University of California, San Francisco and Jennifer Parker, PhD, of the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study, which looked into over three million births in nine nations at 14 sites of North and South America as well as Europe, Asia and Australia, was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

When a newborn infant weighs less than 2,500g or 5.5 pounds irrespective of duration of gestation, the child is said to have a low birth weight. There are many health complications associated with this, as it impairs the normal growth and development of the body. This could lead to chronic disease in the child's future. Low birth weight is also known to cause infant mortality.

The air pollution which a pregnant woman is particularly vulnerable to is emitted from vehicles, urban heating and coal power plants. The researchers found that across the world, low birth weight was directly linked to air pollution. Countries with the highest recorder of air pollution also had the most number of children with low birth weight.

"What's significant is that these air pollution levels to which practically everyone in the world is commonly exposed. These microscopic particles, which are smaller than the width of a human hair, are in the air that we all breathe. In the United States, we showed over the last several decades that the benefits to health and well-being from reducing air pollution are far greater than the costs. This is a lesson that all nations can learn from," Woodruff was quoted as saying in Medicalxpress.

The overall development of the children included in the research will be monitored to find out if these pollutant exposures by the mother have any long-term effects on them.

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