University of California researchers say traffic-related air pollution is associated with up to a 30 percent increase in premature births. The study, appearing in the journal Environmental Health, looked at 100,000 Californian births within a five mile radius of air quality monitoring stations over a 22 month period.
The researchers analyzed and compared exposures to carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and fine particulate matter. All the findings were adjusted for maternal age, race/ethnicity, education and parity.
Some pollutants were area specific, relating to industry and urbanization. However, overall exposure to critical pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) resulted in up to a 30 percent increase in the risk of premature birth. Other toxic substances, such as benzene and fine particulate matter from diesel fumes were associated with a 10 percent increase, while ammonium nitrate fine particles were associated with a 21 percent increase in premature birth.
"Air pollution is known to be associated with low birth weight and premature birth. Our results show that traffic-related PAH are of special concern as pollutants," noted researcher Beate Ritz. "The increase in premature birth risk due to ammonium nitrate particles suggests secondary pollutants are also negatively impacting the health of unborn babies."
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Source: Environmental Health