With Delhi witnessing an alarming rise in air pollution levels, a multi-agency study has revealed the impact of bad poor air quality on growth of foetus in pregnant women. Most significantly, the poor air quality affects the weight of newborn babies.
The study was conducted by Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in association of Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), India Meteorological Department (IMD) and London School of Hygiene to explore the association of air pollution with a neonate's birth weight and gestational age.
The records of 10,565 births in Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi were encoded and linked with real-time air quality data.
These were records of women who reported a New Delhi address during the time of delivery. The distance of each address to all the monitoring stations was recorded. Later, birth records were assigned pollution exposure levels averaged across records from monitoring stations within 10 kilometres of the address during pregnancy.
Chairperson, department of neonatology, Institute of Child Health at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Dr Neelam Kler said, "The study was conducted was to assess the gaps in current hospital health management information systems (i.e. paper-based records of prenatal, delivery, neonatal, discharge data) for environmental studies. In most of the cases we found that the poor air quality affected the weight of the newborn babies."
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) research and more recent data, air quality in some cities in India, China and Pakistan is dangerous and getting worse. Air pollution has also made India the country with the highest rate of deaths caused by chronic respiratory diseases anywhere in the world. Bad air is also blamed for the growth in stress levels as well as non-communicable diseases, such as high blood pressure.
"Maternal and neonatal data from 2007-2012 were encoded and linked with air pollution data based on distance to the nearest air quality monitoring station. Completeness and accuracy of neonatal anthropometric measures, maternal demographic information, nutritional status and maternal risk factors (gestational diabetes, anaemia, hypertension, etc.) were assessed," Dr Kler said.
Maternal nutritional statuses such as anemia or vitamin deficiencies were recorded, in addition to delivery procedures, maternal morbidity such as infections, peripartum and hypertensive conditions.
According to the researchers, the study established that toxic gases like carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and other poisonous gases has not only adversely affecting growth of foetuses but also lead to premature birth.
"Poor air quality affects the immune system of vulnerable groups and study shows that the foetuses which is still developing in womb are also exposed to poor air quality," Dr Kler.