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Urban Air Pollution Causes More Premature Births

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Numerous scientific studies have suggested that air pollution can lead to premature births. Air pollution, both indoors and out, are at the greatest concentrations in dense urban areas, and thus pregnant women are much more likely to experience a premature birth than the average woman.  Although the study cited below is several years old it is important to note that air pollution today leads to 16,000 premature births in the United States leading to billions of dollars in economic costs. Dr. Beate Ritz, the author of  a study conducted at the University of California, researched the connection between air pollution, premature birth and low birth weight.  

Dr. Ritz’s research examined 10,000 births in a five-mile radius using air quality monitoring stations. Such stations are prevalent in the area because Los Angeles boasts notorious traffic-related air pollution levels.

The primary culprit is exhaust from automobiles. Even with the modern focus on environmental awareness, emissions still contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are a byproduct of burning gas, at dangerous levels. In areas where traffic pollution is high, studies indicate that PAHs alone can be responsible for a 30-percent increase in risk of premature birth. Another culprit is ammonium nitrate which is common in high levels in both agricultural and industrial areas. Ammonium nitrate can increase risk by 21 percent. The presence of benzene, a petrochemical that is a byproduct of burning diesel fuels, increases risk by as much as 10 percent.

Despite all the focus on traffic, Dr. Ritz stressed the evidence concerning non-traffic-related sources. The research demonstrates that PAH is a particular concern, including PAH sources other than traffic. The presence of ammonium nitrate is the most important indicator. These dangerous levels can be problematic even in rural environments.

Researchers also noted that levels were at their highest in the winter and lowest in the summer, but at dangerous levels, the difference between winter and summer was practically insignificant. In addition, researchers found that coastal cities had lower levels than cities inland.

People can be proactive about the quality of their indoor air. There are solutions, such as a high-quality HEPA air purifier. A HEPA air filter removes particles of 0.3 microns or larger, which includes virtually all known dangerous airborne particulates. An activated carbon filter in addition to a HEPA filter will remove all volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Protecting yourself from air pollution is important for everyone, but it is particularly important for expecting mothers. The air you breathe affects your unborn child. Air pollution can lead to many respiratory conditions and other health risks. Whether you live in a big city or a small town, don’t take risks with your health or the health of your unborn child. Be proactive. Make an investment that will serve your family for many years to come.


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