Pregnant women who live in urban environments near heavy traffic are 30% more likely to give birth prematurely, according to recent research. The study out of the School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, based its finding on 100,000 births over a 22 month period.
Premature births are common and account for more than one in ten deliveries, and the study suggests that many of these preterm births are related to traffic pollution exposure. Chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), a by-product of gasoline, are considered the biggest risk factor. Ammonium nitrate also raised the risk of premature birth. Other toxic substances such as benzene and fine particulate matter from diesel fumes also increased the risk, although not to as great a degree.
The researchers suggest that while pregnant women may want to avoid roadways as much as possible, they do acknowledge that this can be very difficult and that what is really needed are policies designed to curb emissions.
Source: Journal of Environmental Health