Exposure to dirty air in the world's most polluted region linked to pregnancy loss, study finds
CNN | South Asia
The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com
Pregnant women in South Asia who have been exposed to air pollution face an increased risk of pregnancy loss, miscarriage, and stillbirth, according to a new study.
Researchers found that an estimated 349,681 pregnancy losses each year across India, Bangladesh and Pakistan were associated with bad air quality.
Published in the Lancet Planetary Health journal on Wednesday, the study suggests that if these countries met India's air quality standard, it could have prevented 7% of the annual pregnancy losses.
Dirty air has previously been linked to increased miscarriages, premature births and low birth weights among infants, as a result of the effects of pollution on the mother. Other research has found that pollution can breach a mother's placenta and potentially reach foetuses in the womb.
But the study is believed to be the first of its kind to quantify the effect of ambient pollution on pregnancy loss in South Asia -- one of the most polluted regions on Earth -- and the authors say their findings are important for improving public and maternal health, particularly in low-income countries.
"South Asia has the highest burden of pregnancy loss globally and is one of the most PM2.5 polluted regions in the world. Our findings suggest that poor air quality could be responsible for a considerable burden of pregnancy loss in the region, providing further justification for urgent action to tackle dangerous levels of pollution," said lead author of the study, Dr Tao Xue, who is assistant professor at Peking University, China.
PM2.5 is a tiny particulate pollution that can move deep into the lungs when inhaled and enter the bloodstream. The particles, made up of dust, dirt, soot or smoke, originate from construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires, and can contain different chemicals. But most particles are a mix of pollutants from the power plant, industrial and vehicle emissions.
Exposure to such particles has been linked to lung and heart disorders and can impair cognitive and immune functions.
Researchers focused on these tiny pollution particles. They found between 2000 and 2016, 7.1% of pregnancy losses in South Asia were attributable to the mothers being exposed to air pollution that exceeded India's current air quality standard of 40 micrograms per cubic meter of air.