New study links particulate matter air pollution to premature births

A new study adds to the weight of evidence linking premature births to particulate matter air pollution (PM) – a cautionary note for those who live near highways and other sources PM. This research, by Swedish, British, and American scientists, links almost 1 in 5 premature births to fine PM air pollution.

Research published last year by researchers from NYU and other universities estimates the costs of premature births in the U.S. linked to air pollution at over $4 billion per year, and emphasizes that “considerable health and economic benefits could be achieved through environmental regulatory interventions that reduce PM2.5 exposure in pregnancy.”

The primary sources of PM air pollution in the U.S. are traffic-related air pollution, particularly from diesel engines, burning of biomass, and coal power plants.

Economic costs of premature births

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Children’s health expert calls for urgent action to reduce burning of fossil fuels

In a strongly worded commentary and opinion piece, both published this week, Columbia University professor and researcher Frederica Perera discussed the health toll on children from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, including diesel, and emphasized the “strong moral imperative to protect our most vulnerable populations,” and the need for urgent action to reduce their use.  

“Every Frederica Perera, Source - Columbia Universityday that we refuse to act compounds these problems. Inaction perpetuates the health damage from toxic air pollutants and delays and reduces our ability to thwart the increasingly severe consequences of climate change. And it carries long-term consequences for each and every new child conceived…Children in low-income communities in the US, as well as globally, suffer most due to disproportionately high exposures to polluting sources, which are more likely to be built in or near the neighborhoods in which they live.”

Read the commentary and opinion piece, and more news about them, at the links below.

Multiple Threats to Child Health from Fossil Fuel Combustion: Impacts of Air Pollution and Climate Change, Environmental Health Perspectives Journal

Opinion: The case for a child-centered energy and climate policy, Environmental Health News

Scientist: Fossil fuels’ two-way assault on children’s health needs to stop, Environmental Health News