Air pollution increases risk for stillbirth

New study results show evidence that exposure to ambient air pollution, especially during the last third of pregnancy, increases the risk for stillbirth. The study was carried out by doctoral students Nazeeba Siddika and Hamudat A. Balogun, and Doctor Adeladza K. Amegah, under supervision of Professor Jouni J. K. Jaakkola, from The Center for Environmental and Respiratory Health Research (CERH) at the University of Oulu.

Effects of the exposure to air pollution for stillbirth risk have previously been studied especially in developing countries, but the findings in the two reviews published so far have been contradictory. The new review, which looks systematically at several recently published studies, stillbirth risk increased 2 % for each 4 µg/m3 exposure increase to particulate matter, and 6.6 % for each 10 ppb exposure increase to nitrogen dioxide. A correlation was also observed for exposure to carbon monoxide and ozone.

Researchers say that results show that air pollution increases risk of stillbirth, but further studies are needed. There were estimated 2.6 million stillbirths in the world in 2015, which can be regarded as a forgotten global health problem. If these results are confirmed, their effects will be significant, because exposure to air pollution is so common.

Stillbirths and other health problems caused by air pollution can be prevented by increasing knowledge of their ill effects, and by decreasing the discharges of energy production and industry.

The results were published in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine magazine on 25 May 2016.

The Center for Environmental and Respiratory Health Research in the University of Oulu is one of the WHO Collaborating Centres.

Last updated: 1.6.2016