The study, published in the journal Environmental Research, also revealed that mothers who are underweight and come from lower socioeconomic background, were more exposed to the possibility of being affected by air pollution.
Further, the study found that the association with air pollution was stronger among female babies and first births – a fact that is thought to be due to a biological mechanism that is yet to be identified.
“It is now clear that governments need to set up the infrastructure to integrate environmental and health data at the personal level,” said Professor Hagai Levine of the Hebrew University (HU)-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health.
The team looked at the link between air pollutant PM2.5 and the birth weight of 3,80,000 singleton babies born to mothers all over in Israel between 2004-2015.
Israel, a country with the highest fertility rate among countries under OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and high levels of the air pollutant PM2.5, made it an ideal location to look for an association between low birth weight and poor air quality.
The team used personal, anonymised data and detailed high-resolution pollutant data to produce more accurate statistical analysis.
The model included siblings, and it enabled the estimation of the variance in low birth weight to be accounted for by variances between different mothers, leading to more accurate estimates.
The data used by the research team included: personal anonymised data on the mothers, including the area where they lived and the weight of their babies at birth; and daily air pollutant concentration over each square kilometre of Israel, derived from satellite data.
The study clearly showed the association between the level of the air pollutant PM2.5 and low birth weight.
The association of air pollutants with low birth weight raises the question of whether the governments should take the impact on the developing baby into account and increase its efforts to reduce pollution. (IANS)