Cli­mate change may lead to low new­born weights in poorer na­tions

Daily Trust - - HEALTH -

Cli­mate change is ex­pected to bring about a host of health harms, and a new study sug­gests that a sur­pris­ing ad­di­tion to that list might be an in­crease in the num­ber of low birth weight ba­bies born in poor na­tions.

The re­searchers looked at al­most 70,000 births in 19 African na­tions. The births oc­curred be­tween 1986 and 2010. The re­searchers hoped to as­sess the re­la­tion­ship be­tween rain­fall, tem­per­a­ture and birth weight.

They found that that lower lev­els of rain­fall and an in­creased num­ber of very hot days dur­ing preg­nancy seems to raise the risk of lower birth weight. Low birth weight oc­curs when a baby is born weigh­ing less than 2,500 grams (about 5.5 pounds), the re­searchers said.

Although this study was able to find an as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween rain­fall and tem­per­a­ture and the num­ber of ba­bies with low birth weights, it wasn’t de­signed to prove a cause-and-ef­fect re­la­tion­ship be­tween these fac­tors.

Still, the re­searchers ex­pressed con­cern.

“Our find­ings demon­strate that in the very early stages of in­trauter­ine de­vel­op­ment, cli­mate change has the po­ten­tial to sig­nif­i­cantly im­pact birth out­comes. While the sever­ity of that im­pact de­pends on where the preg­nant woman lives, in this case the de­vel­op­ing world, we can see the po­ten­tial for sim­i­lar out­comes ev­ery­where,” study leader Kathryn Grace, a ge­og­ra­phy pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Utah in Salt Lake City, said in a univer­sity news re­lease.

The study was pub­lished Sept. 29 in the jour­nal Global En­vi­ron­men­tal Change.

Low birth weight ba­bies are at in­creased risk for ill­ness, dis­abil­i­ties and death, the re­searchers said. Ba­bies born at a low weight also tend to achieve lower lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion and in­come than nor­mal weight ba­bies, the re­searchers noted.

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