How does air pollution affect unborn children?
All over the world there are tons of premature babies every year. Researchers have now found that air pollution could be responsible for millions of premature births worldwide. Pollutants ingested by the mother seem to be passed on to the unborn children. This increases the likelihood of premature birth.
A team of scientists from the Stockholm Environment Institute, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Colorado found in an investigation that increasing air pollution is causing more and more children to be born prematurely. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Environment International".
Since 2010 there have been more than 3.4 million premature births due to air pollution
The strong air pollution worldwide releases microscopic pollutants. These can then penetrate into the lungs of expectant mothers and be passed on to their unborn children. The experts warned that this effect can lead to the affected babies being born prematurely. The current study found that air pollution worldwide could have caused more than 3.4 million premature babies since 2010, the doctors add.
Study examines fine dust with a maximum diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers.
The researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute focused particularly on fine dust with a maximum diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers. This enabled them to find out that this form of air pollution was most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, north Africa and Southeast Asia.
Southeast Asia has the most premature births due to air pollution
These three regions of the world account for 60 percent of all premature babies worldwide. Southeast Asia appears to have the most frequent premature births due to air pollution. Up to 1.6 million cases of premature birth seem to be due to air pollution, the scientists explain. Although China actually has a relatively low preterm birth rate, the report showed that up to 521,000 cases could be linked to air pollution, the authors say.
Premature birth is the leading cause of death in infants under five years of age
Early birth and all of the associated conditions are one of the biggest reasons that children die all over the world. There are still many other causes of premature birth. For this reason, any information about the possible causes is extremely helpful, the experts explain. Figures from the current study suggest that nearly 15 million babies around the world are born each year before they reach week 37 of pregnancy, the authors say. For example, one in ten babies in the United States and one in thirteen babies in the United Kingdom are born prematurely. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), premature births are the leading cause of death in infants under the age of five.
Which health disadvantages occur in premature babies?
Babies born prematurely are at high risk of developing health problems. These exist particularly in connection with feeding, infections and breathing problems, explain the doctors. In the long term, prematurely born babies can develop limited hearing and vision and even various disabilities. Early birth and low birth weight can be the cause of stress in infants, inside and outside the uterus, the experts explain. This increases the existing risk of ADHD, anxiety and later shyness. (as)