New Delhi: The research, led by a team from The Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) at the University of York, found that in 2010, about 2.7 million preterm births globally, or 18 per cent of all preterm births, were associated with outdoor exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5). India alone accounted for about 1 million of the total 2.7 million global estimate.
The findings are even more alarming when you consider the fact that the indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than the outdoor air. In addition to the polluted air from outside that makes its way into our homes through ventilation, our homes contain pollutants caused by every day activities such as cooking, use of cleaning products, hair spray, candles, open fires and smoking.
Chris Malley, a researcher in SEI at York and lead author, further added, “This study highlights that air pollution may not just harm people who are breathing the air directly, it may also seriously affect a baby in its mother’s womb. Preterm births associated with this exposure not only contribute to infant mortality, but can have life-long health effects in survivors.”
The study revealed that while many other health impacts of air pollution have been documented – most notably through the Global Burden of Disease studies – the focus has been mainly on premature deaths from heart disease and respiratory problems.
A pregnant woman’s exposure can vary greatly depending on where she lives – in a country like China or India, for instance, she might inhale more than 10 times as much pollution as she would in rural England or France.
India alone accounted for about 1 million of the total 2.7 million global estimate, and China for about another 500,000. Western sub-Saharan Africa and the North Africa/Middle East region also had particularly high numbers, with exposures in these regions having a large contribution from desert dust. SEI is working to support more than 20 developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to develop plans to reduce emissions leading to particulate air pollution.
Journal Reference: Christopher S. Malley, Johan C.I. Kuylenstierna, Harry W. Vallack, Daven K. Henze, Hannah Blencowe, Mike R. Ashmore. Preterm birth associated with maternal fine particulate matter exposure: A global, regional and national assessment.