Sunday, November 10, 2013

Air Pollution Linked to Low Birthweight in Europe

News Brief by Lushna Mehra

Miriam Stix’s “Air pollution linked to low birthweight in Europe” examines the positive correlation between urban air pollution and decreasing birth weight, as indicated by various studies conducted in Europe. Cross-sectional studies over 15 years concluded that about 22% of low birth weight cases could have been prevented if the World Health Organization’s standard of no more than 10 micrograms per cubic meter of fine particulate exposure was upheld. These results are analogous to problematic cases that could have been prevented if mothers stopped smoking during pregnancy. Low birth weight proves to be a problem since babies born less than 5.5 pounds are more likely to have respiratory issues in childhood and to develop problems later as well.

Specifically, Dr. Marie Pedersen conducted 14 studies in which birth records, birth weight, gestational age, and sex information were gathered from various locations in Scandinavia, Western Europe, England, Lithuania, and Greece. These mothers were all of good age, height, weight, and education. Her team formed an air-monitoring network that was able to gauge the levels of pollution throughout the seasons and supplemented this data with data from air monitoring stations providing information on traffic density and land use. Results concluded that the risk of low birth weight increased by 18% for every 5 micrograms per cubic meter and that there was a noticeable reduction in head circumference of the babies whose mothers were exposed to levels ranging from less than 10 to 30 micrograms per cubic meter exposure. These conclusions were published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

The United States has portrayed itself as a leader in limiting toxic particle exposure. The US Environment Protection Agency set a 35 microgram limit which was lowered to 12 micrograms in 2013. However, Dr. Jonathan Grigg believes that more information can be obtained by determining the most dense locations of harmful particles and that reduction of vehicle emissions may be necessary to solve this problem (Stix, 2013).

Reference: Stix, Miriam. "Air Pollution Linked to Low Birthweight in Europe." Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 01 Nov. 2013. Web. 08 Nov. 2013. 
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