Underweight Babies Linked to Air Pollution

<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/cat.mhtml?lang=en&search_source=search_form&search_tracking_id=6049FC42-7180-11E2-B5E8-EF489EA4A24C&version=llv1&anyorall=all&safesearch=1&searchterm=woman+gas+mask&search_group=&orient=&search_cat=&searchtermx=&photographer_name=&people_gender=&people_age=&people_ethnicity=&people_number=&commercial_ok=&color=&show_color_wheel=1#id=85257283&src=8CB15FE6-7180-11E2-BA76-8AF8ACE6966E-1-13">Iakov Filimonov</a>/Shutterstock


Women who are exposed to air pollution generated by cars, power plants, and heating and cooling systems are more likely to have a baby that is born underweight, according to new research published this week in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Low birth weight—defined as anything below 5.5 pounds—is linked to negative outcomes for babies, including increased mortality, chronic health problems, and stunted mental and physical development. The study, which is billed as the largest survey to date, looked at birth weight data on 3 million births recorded at 14 sites in nine different countries (across North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia). Researchers analyzed ambient air quality data for the area during the woman’s pregnancy. They found that in the places places they studied, “the higher the pollution rate, the greater the rate of low birth weight.”

And, as one of the lead researchers noted in a statement, they saw effects even if there weren’t crazy high levels of air pollution. “What’s significant is that these are air pollution levels to which practically everyone in the world is commonly exposed,” said Tracey Woodruff, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California in San Francisco. “These microscopic particles, which are smaller than the width of a human hair, are in the air that we all breathe.” 

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.