The study, where data were pooled from 14 population-based mother-child cohort studies in 12 European countries with a total study population of 74 178 women, found that exposure to ambient air pollutants and traffic density during pregnancy led to an 18% increased risk in low birth weight, after accounting for other factors like maternal smoking, age, weight, and education.
The study concludes that a substantial proportion of cases of low birth weight at term could be prevented in Europe if urban air pollution was reduced.
Commenting on the study, Dr Patrick O’Brien, spokesperson for The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:
“The results of this study suggest that maternal exposure to common air pollutants and traffic is associated with restricted fetal growth, resulting in reductions in birth weight and head circumference.
“Exposure to some level of air pollution is unavoidable in day-to-day life and the risk still remains fairly low. Other factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure or excessive alcohol consumption, may contribute more to the risk of having a low birth weight baby.
“This research, using data from several large population based studies, is very helpful in providing further evidence on the potential health impacts of air pollution. More research in this area could further our knowledge on the impact of air pollution on women and their babies.”
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To read the Lancet study, Ambient air pollution and low birthweight: a European cohort study, please click here.