Study links PM2.5 air pollution exposure during pregnancy to low birth weight

A recent study reveals a significant link between PM2.5 air pollution exposure during pregnancy and low birth weight. The study analyzed data from 84 global studies, emphasizing the need for enhanced air pollution controls to protect vulnerable groups, especially pregnant women, and children.

A recent study conducted by researchers from the Hebrew University's School of Public Health, in collaboration with Hadassah Medical Center, has uncovered a troubling link between exposure to PM2.5 air pollution during pregnancy and the risk of low birth weight in newborns. This study highlights the significant impact of air quality on prenatal development and emphasizes the urgent need for stricter air pollution controls.

The study, led by Dr. Wiessam Abu-Ahmad and Professor Hagai Levine, in collaboration with Prof. Ronit Nierl, analyzed data from a comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis encompassing 84 studies worldwide, representing about 42 million births. The findings draw attention to the pronounced health risks associated with the fine particulate matter commonly emitted from transportation and industry. This week Lag B'Omer will be mentioned in Israel, with traditional bonfires, which emits huge amounts of PM2.5 air pollution.

Dr. Abu-Ahmed pointed out, "Our analysis reveals stark regional variations in the impacts of air pollution on fetal development. This underscores the need for a localized approach in monitoring and mitigating air pollution. Particularly concerning are the strong correlations found in European studies, likely influenced by specific environmental and climatic conditions."

The research indicates a positive relation between high levels of PM2.5 particles during pregnancy and an increased likelihood of babies being born at low birth weights. Low birth weight is a critical concern as it is linked to numerous health complications later in life, including heart disease, diabetes, and developmental issues.

The researchers stress the urgency of establishing an updated national database to monitor the effects of air pollution effectively in Israel.

The discrepancies among global studies highlight the complexities of environmental health risks and the critical need for targeted research and policies."

Professor Hagai Levine

This study forms part of a broader research initiative focusing on environmental exposures and fetal growth, funded by the Ministry of Environmental Protection in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. The insights from this study are pivotal in reinforcing the battle against air pollution and safeguarding public health, particularly for infants and pregnant women.

Despite the cultural significance of bonfire events in Israeli tradition of Lag B'omer, the study's implications point to the necessity of reevaluating public health policies to prioritize the well-being of the most vulnerable populations, particularly pregnant women, and children.

Prof. Levine further emphasized the societal responsibility to adapt healthier and more environmentally friendly practices: "It is imperative that both personal and governmental actions are intensified to address this health hazard. Effective measures, including stricter regulations to reduce emission sources, applying "polluter-pays" principle and political commitment are essential to safeguard public health of the current and future generations."

Source:
Journal reference:

Ahmad, W. A., et al. (2024). Meta-analysis of fine particulate matter exposure during pregnancy and birth weight: Exploring sources of heterogeneity. Science of the Total Environment. doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2024.173205.

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