It’s estimated that air pollution causes seven million deaths globally each year. According to WHO data, most people live in areas that exceed the guidelines for the limits on levels of pollutants, with lower-income countries suffering from the most exposure.
The health risks of air pollution include a higher chance of developing respiratory or cardiovascular problems – and these risks have been well known for some time.
Now, a study carried out by researchers at the University of California has found another potential risk of air pollution could be an increased chance of pregnancy complications.
The researchers explored the risks to pregnant women exposed to indoor and outdoor air pollution during pregnancy. They found that both types of pollution could have a significant effect on infants, including low birth weight and being born prematurely.
The risks of air pollution to newborns
For the study, the researched analyzed data from previous studies into indoor and outdoor pollution. They tracked the results and compared the data on pregnancies, pregnancy-related complications, and air quality to see if there was a link.
They found that, globally, air pollution can negatively impact newborns in a number of ways. One of the findings was that air pollution was linked to approximately 3 million low birth weight newborns and 6 million premature births in 2019.
In addition to this, the regions with the highest levels of air pollution – Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa – had worse pregnancy outcomes and would benefit from pollution levels being stabilized.
Another important finding was that indoor pollution, which comes from fireplaces, stoves, cleaning products, and other indoor items, could also contribute to the problem.
Although the effects of outdoor pollution are well documented, the researchers have highlighted the fact that all types of air pollution can increase the risks during pregnancy.
Researcher Dr. Rakesh Ghosh noted, “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 disease. Our study suggests that taking measures to mitigate climate change and reduce air pollution levels will have significant health co-benefit for newborns.”