Air pollution almost as bad for babies as smoking during pregnancy

Dirty air can lead to women giving birth to smaller babies, according to new research which also warns that exposure to air pollution during pregnancy rivals the damage done by smoking.

A new study carried out by the universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen has revealed that Scottish babies exposed to dangerous air pollution breathed in by their mothers developed smaller heads and shorter bodies.

The research also showed that mothers who smoked during pregnancy, but who were exposed to less pollution, gave birth to children with similar defects.

The study only took into account a sampling pool in the northeast of Scotland, where air pollution is less pronounced than in cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow. The highest average concentrations detected during the study were 7.2 micrograms per cubic metre, far below the annual average of 10 mcg per cubic metre recommended by the WHO.

Lead scientist Dr Tom Clemens explained that his team’s findings showed that “a foetus with a non-smoking mother exposed to high pollution levels is only slightly better off than one with a smoking mother exposed to low levels of pollution”.

Clemens urged the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Union to review their separate definitions of what emission levels are considered acceptable.

Another recent study warned that massive spending by the G20 nations on fossil fuel subsidies has racked up healthcare-related costs in the excess of two trillion dollars, largely due to complications caused by exposure to air pollution.

Read in full here. By Sam Morgan | EURACTIV.com