Studies show that air pollution is responsible for up to 6 million premature births and 3 million underweight babies each year worldwide.
The analysis, which combines the results of several scientific studies, is the first to calculate the overall global burden of total indoor and outdoor air pollution.
Recent findings indicate that household pollution, often on solid fuels such as coal or wood, accounts for two-thirds of total household pollution in 2019. This is especially true in developing lands, such as some parts of Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
“Individually, indoor air pollution seems to be a much heavier burden compared to outdoor standards,” says Rakesh Gosh, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. Therefore, exposure to family pollution should be part of the message as much as possible, especially in prenatal care.
Air pollution is usually measured in terms of exposure to micronutrients less than 2.5 microns: Once inhaled, a small amount of these particles can enter the bloodstream, which can lead to many health problems.
More than 92% of the world’s population lives below the World Health Organization’s recommended outdoor air quality, and about 49% are equally vulnerable to indoor air pollution.
Regions such as South and East Asia are the most polluted, with Bangladesh, China, India, and Pakistan being the 49 most polluted cities in the world. In recent years, wildfires, farm fires, and dust storms have also caused widespread air pollution.
In addition to the serious damage to public health, the annual cost of air pollution is estimated at 2.9 t.
For this study, the buffalo team examined 108 research papers in relation to four major risk factors for indoor and outdoor pollution – gestational age, birth weight loss, low birth weight and premature birth – for 204 countries.
After monitoring risk factors such as pregnancy weight, smoking and alcohol consumption and diet, the researchers found that air pollution was a major cause of low birth weight and premature birth. It is a major cause of death for 15 million newborns worldwide each year.
The findings, based on previous research by Ghosh and colleagues, suggest that air pollution contributed to the deaths of 500,000 newborns worldwide in 2019.
He estimated that by reducing air pollution in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the number of premature and low birth weight babies could be reduced by about 78% worldwide.