Study of 3 million infants suggests connection between inhaled particles and birth weight.

Pregnant women who have been exposed to higher levels of some types of air pollution are slightly more likely to give birth to underweight babies, a large international study has found. The results are published online today inEnvironmental Health Perspectives1.

Low birth weight — defined as a newborn baby weighing less than 2.5 kilogrammes — increases the risk of infant mortality and childhood diseases, and has been associated with developmental and health problems later in life, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Previous studies have looked at whether exposure to tiny airborne particles during pregnancy leads to more low-birth-weight babies. Although many studies have found links, others have failed to establish a connection.

“The thorn in the side of many studies of air-pollution exposure and impact on fetal growth has been the variability in study design and in exposure assessment,” says Leonardo Trasande, a children’s environmental-health researcher at New York University in New York city. “This one does a tremendous service by making them very comparable.”

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Written by Hannah

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