Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Air pollution linked to premature births

Exposure to fine particulates from burning coal, vehicle exhausts and other pollution sources is linked to an increased risk of pre-term births, according to a study of more than 1 million Chinese births by a team that included Monash Public Health and Preventive Medicine researcher A/Prof Yuming Guo.

The study, published today by the American Medical Association's JAMA Pediatrics journal, claims to be the first to examine the impact of particles of 1 micrometre (PM1) – a millionth of a metre – or smaller.

It found that an increase in PM1 of 10 micrograms per cubic metre over the entire pregnancy led to a 9 per cent increased risk of a pre-term birth. Where pollution was over 52 micrograms per cubic metre, the chance of a pre-term birth rose 36 per cent.

While governments around the world are starting to set guidelines or warn about PM2.5 and PM10 levels, the study suggests authorities should urgently review standards to include PM1 levels, and to broadcast those readings. This includes countries that generally consider their air quality to be fairly good, including Australia.

A/Prof Guo believes the World Health Organization should be interested in the study's results.

"Pre-term births is also a risk factor for [the whole] lifetime," he said. "It's related to asthma, short life expectancy, and it's related to diabetes."

A/Prof Guo is an associate professor of Environmental Epidemiology and Biostatistics. 

This article has been heavily adapted from Fairfax Media's report by Environmental Editor Peter Hannam accessed 3rd January 2018: