The oxygen contaminants that the mother breathes also reach the baby through the blood of the umbilical cord. Therefore, the quality of air that the pregnant woman breathes while a new being is growing inside her will have a lot to do with her development.
A recent study , by Professor Hagai Levine of the Hebrew University (HU) Hadassah Braun School of Public Health, unequivocally showed that air pollution is associated with low birth weight babies .
The research, based on just over 381,000 births over 11 years, provides a rare insight into the effects of pollution on fetuses and may well be a barometer of other health impacts.
The fact that it was done in Israel is significant as it has the highest fertility rate among OECD countries and high levels of air pollution, making it an ideal place to look for an association between low birth weight birth and poor air quality.
“Until now, the literature was unclear, but now we have shown in a large study a clear association between maternal exposure to air pollution and low birth weight , ” the epidemiology professor told The Times of Israel . Hagai Levine of the Hebrew University.
The data used by the research team included: anonymous personal data of the mothers, including the area where they lived and the weight of their babies at birth; and the daily concentration of air pollutants in each square kilometer of Israel, derived from satellite data.
The study clearly showed the association between the level of the air pollutant PM 2.5 (particles suspended in the air that have a diameter of less than 2.5 microns) and low birth weight.
It also revealed that mothers who were underweight and those of lower socioeconomic status were more vulnerable to air pollution exposure.
In addition, the study found that the association with air pollution was stronger among girls and first births , a fact that is believed to be due to a biological mechanism that has not yet been identified.
Low birth weight: the consequences
Currently, one in seven babies in the world is born with low birth weight, which has serious consequences for their health .
When talking about “low weight”, it refers to babies who weighed less than 2,500 kilograms at birth . Normally, a newborn boy weighs between 2,500 and 4,300 kg. and between 2,400 and 4,200 kg. if she is a girl
A low birth weight baby can occur in two situations: when it is born prematurely or when it reaches term but is too small for its gestational age due to intrauterine growth retardation .
Being born with a low weight causes consequences for the child’s health, both immediate and in the future, such as a greater risk of suffering delays in their development and growth, favoring the appearance of diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension , as well as mental illnesses .