Exposure to sooty air pollution makes it more likely that women will have small babies.
Research based on millions of births across the globe shows that the greater the level of sooty pollution (usually found in towns and cities) is, the higher the risk of low birth weight is. Underweight babies are at greater risk of poor health and impaired mental development. Any baby weighing less than five pounds eight ounces at birth is considered underweight and the effect of the link to pollution is said to be small but statistically significant.
The research, which has been published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal, concentrated on particles called PM10s and even smaller PM2.5s that are found in diesel exhausts and coal-fired power station or factory chimneys.
And a 10 microgram per cubic metre rise in average exposure to PM10s increased the prospect of having a baby with a low birth weight by 0.03% and a similar increase in exposure to PM2.5s led to a 10% higher risk, while a continual trend of the risk of low birth weight rising as pollution increases was also observed.
Copyright Press Association 2013