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#Health

Air pollution can lead to stillbirths and is bad for pregnant women

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Studies by environmental organizations have been consistently highlighting the grave damage that pollution is causing to our health and to the health of our beleaguered planet. Clearly, we are all on the brink of an environmental catastrophe but no one from the political establishment is showing the will or the gumption to stall our rapid march towards self-destruction.  Browsing through the newspapers on any given day, news on environmental pollution is invariably overshadowed by news on the economy, GDP, industrial growth or the health of the stock markets.

All over the world, governments are under immense pressure to create jobs which we are told can only come with rapid industrialisation.  All the things we crave which will make our lives more comfortable like air conditioning, gadgets, cars etc., ironically come at a price as pollution levels skyrocket and cause irreparable damage to our health.

In our urban spaces, the most pressing issue is undoubtedly vehicular pollution which at increasing levels is blighting our lungs and the air we breathe. Recently, researchers at the University of Oulu in Finland conducted extensive studies  and discovered that every four micrograms per metre cubed (ug/m3 ) increase in exposure to small particulate matter is linked with a two per cent heightened risk of stillbirths.  In plain words, pollution can lead to stillbirths and if you are pregnant, it would be prudent to move to a rural area where the concentration of vehicles and pollution levels are comparatively much lower.

Researchers have been issuing dire warnings for many years on the catastrophic effects of air pollution on human development in utero as well as on the health of infants and children. As far back as 1977, a seminal paper by researchers in Los Angeles was the first to describe the possible links between air pollution at atmospheric levels and reduced birth weight. The period between conception and birth is one of the most at-risk life stages during which the maternal environment can have tremendous immediate and lasting impact on health.  As the foetus undergoes growth and development, the maternal environment affects  these processes, and today evidence is mounting that exposure to environment can cause infants to be born premature (before 37 weeks of gestation) or low weight (less than 2500 grams, or 5.5 pounds), or to be born with certain birth defects.  Babies exposed to toxins can either die in infancy while those who survive carry high risks of brain, respiratory, and digestive problems in early life and heart disease and diabetes in adulthood.

We are in a no win situation today and the best bet apparently is to find ways to minimize the damage to our health and that of our born and unborn children.