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Climate Change

Pollution linked to 6 million premature births globally

"Air pollution should now be considered a major driver of infant morbidity and mortality, not just of chronic adult diseases."

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Adult�´s Hand And Baby���´s Foot, Mom And Newborn

By Georgia Lambert via SWNS

Toxic gas stoves and outdoor air pollution has been linked to nearly six million premature births around the world, a new study revealed.

According to researchers, indoor and outdoor air pollution likely contributed to almost six million premature births and almost three million underweight babies in 2019.

This new analysis offers the most in-depth look at how air pollution affects a baby's age at birth, its weight and preterm birth before week 37 of a pregnancy.

Researchers also looked at the impact of kitchen gas hobs, which emit potent levels of methane - a greenhouse gas that accounted for two-thirds of the measured side effects in newborn babies.

A growing body of evidence points to air pollution as a major cause of premature labor and low recorded birth weights, scientists said.

Power station towers producing steam
Taking measures to mitigate climate change and reduce air pollution will have significant health co-benefit for newborns (Shutterstock)

Premature birth is the leading cause of neonatal deaths worldwide, which affects more than 15 million babies each year.

It is understood children with low birth weight or who were born prematurely will have higher rates of major illness throughout their lives, researchers said.

The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 90 percent of the world’s population breathes in polluted outdoor air, and half the global population is exposed to indoor air pollution from burning coal and wood inside the home.

The report by experts at UC San Francisco (UCSF) and the University of Washington measured the risks of premature birth and low birth weight based on total exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution.  

Dr. Rakesh Ghosh, the report’s lead author and public health specialist at the Institute for Global Health Sciences at UCSF, said: “The air pollution-attributable is enormous, yet with sufficient effort, it could be largely mitigated.”

The study, conducted at the university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, concluded the global number of premature birth and low birth weight could be reduced by almost 78 percent.

This could be achieved if air pollution was minimized in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where indoor pollution is common and preterm birth rates measure the highest, globally, scientists said.

They also found significant risks in the more developed parts of the world, including the United States, where the outside air pollution is estimated to have contributed to almost 12,000 premature births in 2019.

In a previous study, the university’s team quantified the effects of air pollution on early-life mortality and found that it contributed to a staggering 500,000 deaths in newborn babies during 2019.

Dr. Ghosh added: “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 diseases. 

“Our study suggests that taking measures to mitigate climate change and reduce air pollution levels will have significant health benefits for newborns.”  

The study was published on November 16, in the PLOS Medicine journal.

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