“Only policy makers have the power to protect women and unborn babies,” says the British Medical Journal (BMJ). Researchers from Imperial College London found that traffic pollution is putting the lives of pregnant women and their babies at risk, health experts warn.
The study, published in the BMJ, set out to investigate the link between exposure to air and noise pollution from road traffic during pregnancy and birth weight outcomes, low birth weight (less than 2.5kg) and being born small, relatively speaking.
Using national birth registers, the researchers looked at over half a million full-term births in Greater London between 2006 and 2010. The mother’s home address at the time of birth was recorded, with average monthly contractions and traffic-related pollutants and road traffic noise levels being estimated.
Increases in traffic-related pollutants, particularly PM2.5 (harmful levels of fine particles) were linked with a 2-6% increase in the odds of low birth rate and 1-3% increased odds of being small for gestational age.
In September 2017, it was reported that air pollution is responsible for an estimated 40,000 deaths annually in the UK and in 2015, it was estimated that nearly 9,500 were in London alone. Five days into 2017, London exceeded its annual air pollution limits at Brixton Road. Other ‘pollution hotspots’ include Putney High Street in West London, Oxford Street, Kings Road in Chelsea and the Strand.