Bad air, low birth weight

International study links air pollution to underweight newborns

Mothers regularly exposed to air pollution from vehicles, coal plants and factories are more likely to give birth to underweight children, a study finds.

The international study—in which nearly 30 researchers analyzed more than 3 million births in North America, South America, Europe, Australia and Asia—is thought to be the largest ever to investigate how newborns are affected by air quality, according to

Researchers focused on children born on time in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, concluding that worldwide, greater levels of air pollution led to lower birth weights. The researchers found that for every increase of 10 micrograms of fine particulate matter, mothers were 10 percent more likely to birth an underweight child.

“This really speaks to the need for regulatory action to ensure that air-pollution levels are consistently regulated at levels that protect public health and, in particular, protect prenatal and perinatal health,” said researcher Rachel Morello-Frosch of UC Berkeley.