Babies love blue skies

Air pollution can interfere with development in utero

China’s temporary efforts to reduce air pollution during the 2008 Olympics resulted in unexpected permanent health benefits, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Babies born shortly after the games had a higher birth weight. (Heavier babies are generally healthier, as low birth weights are linked to growth abnormalities, infections and birth defects.) Researchers examined 86,000 births to find that infants who spent their last weeks in the womb during the short (seven-week) stint of cleaner air were an average of 23 grams heavier. The study suggests air pollution can interfere with growth spurts in the late stages of pregnancy, when development of the central nervous, cardiovascular and skeletal systems are accelerated.