The pregnancy loss rate in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh is related to poor air quality, a report published in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health shows.
The study indicated that exposure to PM 2.5 particles exceeding India’s 40 μg/m3 air quality level resulted in an unprecedented 349,681 pregnancy losses each year in South Asia. This constitutes 7% of the area’s annual pregnancy loss for the period 2000-2016.
Exposure to air pollution above the 10 μg/m3 WHO air quality limit could have led to 29% of pregnancy losses, the report discovered. The study showed that for each 10 g/m3 rise in PM 2.5 particles, the chance of pregnancy loss increased by 3 per cent.
Compared to live birth controls, the study involved 34,197 women who had suffered a loss of pregnancy, comprising 27,480 miscarriages and 6,717 stillbirths. In the cases of pregnancy loss, 77 per cent were from India, 12 per cent from Pakistan, and 11per cent from Bangladesh.
In the Northern Plains zone in India and Pakistan, pregnancy loss related to air pollution was more frequent, the findings showed.
PTI cited the lead author of the study, Tao Xue, from Peking University, China, as stating, “South Asia has the highest burden of pregnancy loss globally and is one of the most PM2.5 polluted regions in the world. Our findings suggest that poor air quality could be responsible for a considerable burden of pregnancy loss in the region, providing further justification for urgent action to tackle dangerous levels of pollution.”
Compared to younger mothers from urban areas, the increase in the risk was reported to be greater for women from rural communities or those who became pregnant at an older age.
However, the researchers also observed that owing to their high vulnerability to the harmful effects of pollutants, pregnancy mortality attributed to PM 2.5 also impacted mothers of 30 years and older in rural areas.
The researchers gathered data from household health surveys from 1998-2016 for the analysis and measured sensitivity to PM 2.5 during pregnancy by integrating satellite and atmospheric simulation outputs for the analysis. Adjusted variables such as maternal age, temperature and humidity, seasonal variation, and long-term patterns in pregnancy loss can be measured.
The study found that an increased risk of pregnancy loss was correlated with gestational exposure to PM2.5, and this remained important after correcting for other factors.
In their study, the researchers pointed out certain drawbacks, including not being able to differentiate between normal loss of pregnancy and abortions and underreporting of stigma-related pregnancy losses.
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