The premature birth risk among pregnant women was notably greater when exposed to high levels of small particle air pollution, a study has found.
The researchers identified a 19% higher risk of women giving birth prematurely if they are exposed to fine particle air pollution during pregnancy. The premature birth risk was highest among those mothers who were exposed in the third trimester, beginning from 28 weeks through 40 weeks from the last menstrual period (LMP).
The researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center examined birth records in Ohio between 2007 to 2010. The team analyzed nearly 225,000 single live births including more than 19,000 premature births during the study period. They correlated the gathered data with average daily levels of fine particulate matter of 2.5 microns recorded by 57 air monitoring stations across the state.
The study discovered that the frequency of high exposure to fine particulate matter was greater among preterm births than among full-term births. They also found that about 11% of the expectant mothers experienced high exposure to fine particles in all three trimesters. However, the third trimester posed the highest premature birth risk when the pregnancy was exposed to high levels of small particles.
“Decreasing the amount of particulate matter in the air below the US Environmental Protection Agency’s standard threshold could decrease preterm birth in women exposed to high levels of small particulates by about 17%, which corresponds to a 2.22% decrease in the preterm birth rate in the population as whole,” said Prof. Emily DeFranco, a researcher at the Center for Prevention of Preterm Birth, Cincinnati.
The study findings were published in the journal Environmental Health. Premature birth, also known as preterm birth, is the delivery of a baby before 37 weeks of gestational age. These babies are often termed as preemies. The most common risk factors linked with premature birth risk include diabetes mellitus, hypertension, twin pregnancy, recurrent vaginal infections, tobacco smoking and psychological stress.
Airborne particle pollution results from the introduction of harmful materials into the atmosphere. Automobile vehicles, factories, forest fires and volcanoes are responsible for releasing toxic gases. These pollutants can cause severe damage to human health and other living organisms such as animals and food crops. IMAGE/Getty Images