Pollution increases risks of low birth weight, says UHasselt
PhD research from Hasselt University shows that higher levels of fine particulates in the air lead to a much greater risk of low birth weights
Bijnens examined the connection between environmental factors and the health of newborns. She based her research on data gathered from 4,760 sets of twins in Flanders. “By analysing twins, we can make a distinction between the relative importance of genes and environmental factors,” she explained.
The researcher found that babies born to women exposed to higher concentrations of air pollution during the pregnancy had a greater chance of being underweight in proportion to the duration of the pregnancy. An increase of 10 micrograms of fine particulates per cubic metre resulted in a 34% increase in low birth weights.
The researchers also discovered a connection between the proximity of traffic in relation to a woman’s home and the length of the telomeres in the placenta tissue. Telomeres are sequences of DNA that protect genetic material and become shorter as people grow older. The longer the distance between the home and the nearest road, the longer the telomeres in the placenta are – and thus the slower the ageing process.
Pollution in Flanders
months of life lost because of air pollution
alarm level for microgram level of fine particulates per cubic metre
billion greenhouse gas emissions in CO2 equivalents in Flanders in 2011