A new study revealed that the worsening air pollution in South Asia had increased the risk of pregnancy loss, miscarriage, and stillbirth. The researchers estimated about 349,681 pregnancies are lost each year across Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, which are countries in South Asia with poor air quality.
The study was published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal on Wednesday, January 6, which suggests that if only countries in South Asia have met the air quality standard in India, they could have prevented 7% of the annual pregnancy losses.
Air Pollution Affecting Pregnancies in South Asia
Prolonged exposure to air pollution has been previously linked to increased miscarriages, premature births, and low birth weights. Other studies also showed that air pollution could reach the placenta and potentially reach the fetus in the womb.
According to a CNN report, air pollution in India and other countries in South Asia is causing the increasing numbers of pregnancy loss. South Asia ranks first among all the countries in the world that have the highest burden of pregnancy loss.
The poor air quality in the region affecting pregnancies provides further justification for urgent action to tackle the dangerous air pollution levels, said study lead author and assistant professor Dr. Tao Xue of Peking University in China.
The study is the first to quantify the effect of air pollution on pregnancy loss in South Asia, one of the most PM2.5 polluted regions globally. PM2.5 are tiny particles of air pollutants that can move deep into the lungs when inhaled and enter the bloodstream.
These air pollutants include dirt, dust, and soot or smoke from construction sites, fields, smokestacks or fires, and unpaved roads. Unfortunately, most of these air pollutants are a mix of pollutants from a power plant and industrial and vehicle emissions.
Prolonged exposure to these pollutants has been linked to lung and heart diseases. According to the World Health Organization's air quality guidelines, only 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air is deemed safe for pregnant women, and that exposure may contribute to 29% of pregnancy losses.
Where Dos Air Pollution in South Asia Come From?
Asking where does the air pollution in most countries in South Asia comes from seems to be easy. Most people would think that it is probably caused by industrialization with many cars and factories or buildings operating in the big cities of the region. However, a study shows that air pollution in South Asia mostly comes from biomass burning (BB).
According to IPS News, BB in rural kitchens still accounts for the primary source of energy in developing countries. Around 3 billion people rely on open fires or simple stoves for cooking. Additionally, around 39% of the global population uses biomass fuel for cooking or heating.
Besides household biomass burning, crop residue burning also is a strong factor for the increased air pollution in South Asia. In a previous report by Science Times, agricultural crop burning has contributed much of the smog in New Delhi, India, which raised its air quality index to over 270. A score of over 25 is already considered unhealthy.
Unsurprisingly, this risks the air quality of the region and contributes to global air pollution. The WHO said that over 4.2 million people die every year due to diseases linked to air pollution.
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