Polluted Air Killed Half A Million Babies in A Year Globally

Research has found that air pollution has caused the premature death of nearly half a million babies in their first month of life just last year alone, with most of the infants being in the developing world. The findings were reported in the State of Global Air 2020 report, which examined data on deaths around the world alongside a growing body of research that links air pollution with health problems.

The report was published by The Health Effects Institute, an independent nonprofit research organization funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency and others.

Previous studies have shown that exposure to airborne pollutants is harmful also for babies, especially during pregnancy. It can cause a premature birth or low birth weight. Both of these factors are associated with higher infant mortality.

Nearly two-thirds of the 500,000 deaths of infants documented were associated with indoor air pollution, particularly arising from solid fuels such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung for cooking.

In previous studies, the focus has been on the impact of air pollution on older people. It is just now that scientists have made efforts to understand what effect this might have on the health of infants and children.

“We don’t totally understand what the mechanisms are at this stage, but there is something going on that is causing reductions in baby growth and ultimately birth weight. There is an epidemiological link, shown across multiple countries in multiple studies,” explained, Katherine Walker, principal scientist at the Health Effects Institute, which published the report.

Studies have shown that children born with lesser birth weight than standard, are more likely to acquire childhood infections and pneumonia. On the other hand, pre-term babies often have under developed lungs.

“They are born into a high pollution environment, and are more susceptible than children who went to term,” according to Dan Greenbaum, president of the Health Effects Institute in the US.

Other experts have previously explained that the indoor air pollution in cities across India, south-east Asia and Africa was comparable to that of Victorian London.

The report was based on data from 2019. This means that the impact of lockdown policies of 2020 has not been included in the study. The authors said the Covid-19 pandemic would have had an impact on air quality and deaths from air pollution, but these effects were not yet clear.

The researchers wrote that the likelihood of any long-term beneficial impact to health from the temporary reductions in air pollution because of lockdowns was small, but that the sudden clearing of pollution from traffic and industry had changed many people’s perception of air quality.

Some studies have also suggested that people exposed to air pollution could have a higher risk of death from Covid-19, but these are early findings. More research is needed to establish what difference was made by exposure to air pollution.

The scientists said there had been little sign of improvement in air pollution over the past 10 years, despite increased warnings over the risks from dirty air in the past five years.

At least 6.7 million deaths globally in 2019 were from long-term exposure to air pollution, a factor raising the risk of stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer and other chronic lung diseases. Air pollution is now the fourth highest cause of death globally, just below smoking and poor diet.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.