Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - FEATURES/APPRECIATION -

ir pol­lu­tion could be to blame for mil­lions of pre­ma­ture births oc­cur­ring glob­ally each year, sci­en­tists claim. Mi­cro­scopic pol­lu­tants given off in diesel emis­sions and agri­cul­tural fires can be­come lodged in the lungs of ex­pec­tant moth­ers.

This then gets passed down to the de­vel­op­ing child and leaves them at risk of be­ing born early, ex­perts warn. A re­port now sug­gests this could be the cause of more than 3.4mil­lion pre­ma­ture births across the world since 2010.

Re­searchers for the Stock­holm En­vi­ron­ment In­sti­tute fo­cused on fine par­tic­u­late mat­ter - small than 2.5 mi­crome­tres in di­am­e­ter.

They found that this form of pol­lu­tion was most dan­ger­ous in sub-sa­ha­ran Africa, north Africa and south-east Asia.

Th­ese three re­gions of the world make up for 60 per cent of all of the pre­ma­ture births world­wide, they said.

SOUTH ASIA had the most air­pol­lu­tion re­lated preterm births at up to 1.6mil­lion in­ci­dences, the re­port­though China has a rel­a­tively low rate of pre­ma­ture births, the re­port re­vealed that up to 521,000 cases could be linked to air pol­lu­tion.

Yet, a lack of re­search in th­ese ar­eas prompted sep­a­rate re­searchers to de­scribe this fig­ure as ‘con­ser­va­tive’, The Guardian re­ports.

Dr Paul Jar­ris, chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer at the March of Dimes, a Us-based or­gan­i­sa­tion fo­cused on ma­ter­nal and baby health said: ‘Preterm birth and associated con­di­tions are one of the big­gest killers of chil­dren in the US and world­wide.

‘Yet, there’s a lot of things we don’t know about what causes preterm birth, so ev­ery bit of in­for­ma­tion we can get is help­ful.’we have known for a long time that air pol­lu­tion con­trib­utes to asthma and heart dis­ease in adults.

‘What I think peo­ple fail to recog­nise is that so many of th­ese risk fac­tors im­pact ba­bies be­fore they are even born.’

He added: ‘This is one more rea­son why we need to be good stew­ards of the en­vi­ron­ment.

‘The most vul­ner­a­ble among us – un­born chil­dren – are af­fected, and re­ally in a way that im­pacts fam­i­lies’ lives for gen­er­a­tions.’

Nearly 15mil­lion ba­bies world­wide are born each year be­fore reach­ing 37 weeks ges­ta­tion, fig­ures sug­gest.

Around one in 13 ba­bies in the UK and one in 10 in the US are born pre­ma­turely.

And ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, it is the lead­ing cause of death in in­fants un­der the age of five.

Pre­ma­ture ba­bies are at an in­creased risk of health prob­lems, par­tic­u­larly re­lated to breath­ing, feed­ing and in­fec­tions.

In the long term, pre­ma­ture ba­bies can suf­fer dis­abil­i­ties and im­paired hear­ing and sight.

Tiny par­ti­cles in diesel emis­sions and agri­cul­ture fires may cause mil­lions of pre­ma­ture births world­wide. In­door fires may also be to blame in poorer re­gions. Air pol­lu­tion may have caused 3.4mil­lion pre­ma­ture births world­wide since 2010; a new re­port re­veals

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