Researchers found that an estimated 349,681 pregnancy losses each year across India, Bangladesh and Pakistan were associated with bad air quality.
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 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 power plant, industrial and vehicle emissions.
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.
Expectant mothers from rural areas or those who were older were at greater risk than young mothers from urban areas, the study found. And pregnancy loss associated with air pollution was more common in the Northern plains region in India and Pakistan.
To reach their findings, researchers looked at data from household surveys on health from 1998 to 2016 and estimated exposure to pollution during pregnancy with the help of satellites. They then created a model that examined how exposure to pollution increased a woman’s risk of pregnancy loss, taking into account maternal age, temperature and humidity, seasonal…
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