Exhaust fumes and ground-level (tropospheric) ozone increase the risk for premature birth, according to a study by a team of researchers at Umeå University in northern Sweden. The study, carried out in Stockholm – a city with comparatively low exhaust emissions – showed that ozone and fumes affect the foetus more than if the mother were a smoker.
Previous studies carried out in more polluted global cities has previously shown that the risk for premature birth is heightened. The Umeå study now reveals that even ground-level ozone poses a danger to pregnancy, according to a report in the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) daily.
David Olsson, a PhD student in Public Health and Clinical Medicine and part of the research group, has expressed surprise at the results which show that the effect of air pollution is comparable to that of smoking during pregnancy. “If we add up the effects of being exposed to high exhaust levels and ozone it has an even greater effect than smoking,” he told SvD.
Ground-level ozone can disrupt the development of the placenta and thus influence the time of birth. In the later stages of pregnancy, traffic exhaust fumes have been found to cause the inflammation of mother’s airways and expedite delivery.
Further studies have shown that premature babies carry a heightened risk of asthma and other respiratory problems.
According to Magnus Wickman, professor and chief physician at the Sachsska Children’s Hospital in Stockholm, prescriptions for asthma medicines are more common among premature babies than those going to full term.
“It costs a “staggering” $76.6 billion to cover the health expenses of American children who were sick because of exposure to toxic chemicals and air pollutants in 2008″; this is as contained in a recent study conducted by researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. The study which did not cover costs of all escalating childhood diseases that may have environmental contributors (eg diabetes and obesity), was published in the May issue of the Journal “Health Affairs”. This is an updated version of the study conducted by Mt. Sinai in 1997. The three new studies revealed the economic impact of toxic chemicals and air pollutants in the environment, and proposed new legislation to require testing of new chemicals as well as those already on the market.
It was observed by the researchers that this amount was 3.5% of the nation’s total health-care costs that year, compared with 2.8% in 1997. They examined the cost of childhood cancer and chronic conditions such as asthma, autism, attention deficit disorder, and intellectual disability linked at least in part to toxins and contaminants in the water, air, soil and food, as well as in homes and neighbourhoods.
In one of the studies, Leonardo Trasande, MD, associate professor of preventive medicine and paediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and his team calculated the annual cost for direct medical care and the indirect costs, such as parents’ lost work days, and lost economic productivity caring for their children, of these diseases in children.
Among the main findings:
Childhood cancer cost $95 million.
Lead poisoning cost $50.9 billion.
Autism cost $7.9 billion.
Intellectual disability cost $5.4 billion.
Exposure to mercury (methyl mercury) cost $5.1 billion.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder cost $5 billion.
Asthma cost $2.2 billion.
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