The Alarming Effect Air Pollution Can Have On Pregnancy

Air pollution has long been known to have damaging and chronic medical effects in people including heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory disease, via National Geographic. It's also been found to be harmful to the nerves, brain, kidneys, liver, and other organs.

When pregnant, it's even more troublesome as it can affect both mom and baby. Research has shown that air pollution has been linked to premature birth, via March of Dimes. The 2016 study found that 16,000 premature births in the U.S. were affected by air pollution.

In 2018, a new study found particles from air pollution in placentas, via The Guardian. The particles were believed to contribute to higher rates of miscarriage, premature birth, and low birth weight.

Now, a comprehensive new study has found that air pollution can have alarming effects on pregnancy. The first global study of its kind found that a shocking one million stillbirths across the world are caused by air pollution.

How air pollution is linked to stillbirth

A new study focused on 18 years' worth of data between 1998 and 2016 and investigated air pollution in relation to stillbirths in over 50 countries worldwide considered to be low and middle-income, such as Pakistan, India, and Nigeria, per Nature.

Specifically, small particle pollution from fossil fuels is believed to enter the mother's placenta and pass through to the baby which causes "irreversible embryonic damages," via Nature.

An effort has to be made on an international level. "Clean air policies, which have been enacted in some [countries], such as China, can prevent stillbirths," the study's researchers explained. However, there are precautions people can take in their everyday life. "In addition, personal protections against air pollution, i.e. wearing masks, installing air purifiers, avoiding going outside when air pollution occurs could also protect vulnerable pregnant women."

Perhaps, even more shockingly, is the fact that the 1 million stillbirths in the study found to be linked to air pollution comprise half of the total two million stillbirths worldwide.