In a study conducted in London’s British Medical Journal it was concluded that pregnant mothers who are exposed to road traffic pollution are more likely to deliver babies with low birth weight. This piece of information comes as a big blow to expecting mothers especially in a city like Delhi where deplorable pollution levels are a matter of grave concern. Weight at the time of birth has an immediate bearing on an infant’s chances of survival — those with low birth weight are more likely to develop a range of complications. The researchers concluded in an article published in the British Medical Journal that air pollution in London is sure to have an adverse effect on foetal growth.
”The results suggest little evidence for an independent exposure-response effect of traffic-related noise on birth weight outcomes,” the journal concluded. The study was conducted by scientists Imperial College London, King’s College London and the University of London. An analysis was done on 6,71,509 births and the residential addresses of the mothers at the time of birth were mapped to draw correlations with pollution levels. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a child weighing less than 2,500 gm is considered to be low. Low birth weight is regarded as a significant public health problem globally and is associated with a range of both short- and long-term consequences. It has been estimated that 15-20 per-cent of all childbirths are affected by low birth weight representing over 20 million births annually.
“With compelling evidence of harm from environmental air pollution, pregnant women should consider how to reduce their risk. Air filtering face masks might reduce acute exposure to particulate pollution, but there is no evidence that they reduce chronic exposures. Other strategies include changes to walking routes away from major roads and avoiding outdoor activity when air quality is at its poorest. However, the ubiquity of poor air quality in urban areas like London means that personal behaviour changes are unlikely to result in substantially different long-term exposures. Such lifestyle changes are not realistic for many pregnant women, owing to constraints from employment patterns, residential location and transport options. These constraints are highest in those who are socio-economically disadvantaged, contributing to health inequalities,” the Journal said.