A new study found that even before they take their first breath, babies can be affected by air pollution. Researchers have found a potential connection between toxic air and a number of premature births every year.
Air pollution doesn’t only pose a very serious health hazard for both the mother and the child but was also found to have a severe negative economic impact, as it increased medical costs.
After adopting a new system of issuing warnings for dangerously high pollution levels, Beijing, China’s capital city, sent out a red alert for the first time, causing schools to close temporarily.
So it this the world we’re bringing our kids into? While the study needs further investigation to support the potential connection, researchers already found evidence showing connecting preterm birth – expecting mothers delivering the baby three weeks ahead of term – and air pollution.
As reported by Washington Post, being exposed to harmful air can lead to the expecting mother’s inflammation of the placenta, which in turn can lead to an earlier delivery.
Previous studies have already shown that being exposed to tiny particulate matters (smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) can cause early death and health problems of the respiratory system.
These small particles usually come from factory emissions and increased traffic, and are now also blamed for some premature births.
If a baby comes into the world more than three weeks ahead of the term, some serious medical issues can result from that, such as heightened risk of developmental delays and infant mortality; the baby can also experience breathing and feeding difficulties.
Study author Dr. Leonardo Trasande, an associate professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, Population Health and Environmental Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, explained that the new research only adds to the urgency of reducing air pollution from vehicle exhaust and coal-fired power plants.
But it’s not just the health risks of premature births that have been highlighted in Dr. Trasande’s study, featured in Environmental Health Perspectives. He also reported on the economic impact of air pollution.
Using data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and cross-referencing it with data on preterm births from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found that air pollution could be responsible for 15,808 preterm births – or 3.32 percent of preterm births across the U.S.
They also discovered that preterm birth was associated with a loss in economic productivity, as the early deliveries can cause physical and mental disabilities. The total cost was estimated to a whopping $3.57 billion in 2010, which was a huge impact, not just for families, but also for the economy.
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