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Air Pollution Linked To Nearly Six Million Preterm Births Globally: Study

About 2.8 million low birth weight and 5.9 million preterm birth infants, globally, could have been averted in 2019 if the mean PM2.5 exposure during the entire pregnancy was reduced to the theoretical minimum risk exposure level, the authors of the study noted

Air Pollution Linked To Nearly Six Million Preterm Births Globally: Study
  • Over 90% of the world's population lives with polluted outdoor air: WHO
  • Air pollution is common in Southeast Asia & sub-Saharan Africa: Study
  • Air pollution-attributable burden could be largely mitigated: Researcher

Los Angeles: Air pollution likely contributed to nearly six million premature births and almost three million underweight babies around the world in 2019, according to a study published on Wednesday (September 29). Researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and University of Washington in the US quantified the effects of indoor and outdoor pollution around the world using data from 204 countries. The finding, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, is the most in-depth look yet at how small particulate matter (PM2.5) affects several key indicators of pregnancy, including gestational age at birth, reduction in birth weight, low birth weight, and preterm birth.

Also Read: Air Pollution One Of The Biggest Environmental Threats To Human Health, Says WHO, Toughens Guidelines

It is the first global burden of disease study of these indicators to include the effects of indoor air pollution, mostly from cook stoves, which accounted for two-thirds of the measured effects, the researchers said.

Our findings suggest that about 2.8 million low birth weight and 5.9 million preterm birth infants, globally, could have been averted in 2019 if the mean PM2.5 exposure during the entire pregnancy was reduced to the theoretical minimum risk exposure level, the authors of the study noted.

“South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa combined could have decreased the 2019 low birth weight and preterm birth incidence by about 78 per cent,” they added.

The researchers noted that preterm birth is the leading cause of neonatal mortality worldwide, affecting more than 15 million infants every year. Children with low birth weight or who are born premature have higher rates of major illness throughout their lives, they explained.

The air pollution-attributable burden is enormous, yet with sufficient effort, it could be largely mitigated, said lead author Rakesh Ghosh, a public health specialist at UCSF.

Also Read: Estimated 57,000 Premature Deaths In Delhi Last Year Can Be Attributed To Air Pollution: Greenpeace

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 90 per cent of the world’s population lives with polluted outdoor air, and half the global population is also exposed to indoor air pollution from burning coal, dung and wood inside the home. The study concluded that the global incidence of preterm birth and low birth weight could be reduced by almost 78 per cent if air pollution were minimised in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where indoor pollution is common and preterm birth rates are the highest in the world.

However, it also found significant risks from ambient air pollution in more developed parts of the world. In the US, for example, outdoor air pollution is estimated to have contributed to almost 12,000 preterm births in 2019. Previously, the same research team quantified the effects of air pollution on early life mortality, concluding that it contributed to the deaths of 500,000 newborns in 2019.

Also Read: Primary Trial Of Smog Tower Completed, 90 Per Cent Reduction In Pollution Level Observed

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, Mr Ghosh said.

“Our study suggests that taking measures to mitigate climate change and reduce air pollution levels will have significant health co-benefit for newborns,” he added.

Also Read: World Facing COVID-19, Fragility, Conflict, Climate Change; We’re At Turning Point: UNGA

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity,  that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India. 

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