Mothers exposed to high levels of pollution can give birth to smaller babies, according to a recent study that compared nearly 84,000 newborns during the 2008 Beijing Olympics when Chinese government took drastic measures to clear the air with the ones born pre and post period of the Games.
The research, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found out that the mothers who were in their eighth month pregnancy during the Olympics had babies with birth weight 23 grams heavier on average, compared to the same period in 2007 and 2009.
“The results of this study demonstrate a clear association between changes in air pollutant concentrations and birth weight,” said David Q. Rich, an epidemiologist from the University of Rochester and lead author of the study.
“These findings not only illustrate one of the many significant health consequences of pollution, but also demonstrate that this phenomenon can be reversed.”
To improve Beijing’s poor air quality for the 2008 Olympics, Chinese government implemented strict restrictions on automobile and truck use, closed factories, halted construction as well as seeding rain inducing clouds.
These measures reduced the sulfur dioxide by 60 percent, carbon monoxide by 48 percent, and nitrogen dioxide by 43 percent as well as a reduction in particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter.
According to the study, there is still hope for every city as long as there is will and determination even its pollution is as notorious as Beijing's.
“While Beijing’s pollution is particularly noteworthy, many of the world’s other cities face similar air quality problems,” said Junfeng Zhang, a researcher from Duke Kunshan University and a co-author of the study.
“This study shows that pollution controls – even short-term ones – can have positive public health benefits.”