The State of Global Air discovered that every year thousands of babies die prematurely due to poor air quality affecting health in the womb.
In 2019, data shows that air pollution caused nearly half a million premature deaths, with most of the infants being in the developing parts of the world. For years, medical experts warned of the impacts of polluted air on the elderly and those with health conditions, but now the discovery has shown dirty air`s contribution to higher infant mortality rates.
Katherine Walker, principal scientist at the Health Effects Institute, which published the report, said: “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.”
When carrying mothers are exposed to pollutants, it can affect babies in the womb and cause premature birth or low birth weight. The two factors are associated with higher infant mortality rates.
It has been discovered that almost two-thirds of half a million premature deaths recorded were associated with indoor air pollution, particularly arising from solid fuels such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung for cooking.
The indoor air pollution in cities across India, south-east Asia and Africa was comparable to that of Victorian London, Beate Ritz, professor of epidemiology at UCLA, (University of California, Los Angeles), who was not involved with the study said.
“This is not the air pollution we see in modern cities [in the rich world] but that which we had 150 years ago in London and other places, where there were coal fires indoors. Indoor air pollution has not been at the forefront for policymakers, but it should be,” Ritz said.
Data shows that about 6.7 million people globally died from long-term exposure to air pollution, a factor increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer and other chronic lung diseases.