According to a recent study conducted by researchers at both the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre and the University of Cincinnati, exposure to high levels of small particle air pollution can increase the risk of a preterm birth.
The findings of the study, which analysed 225,000 live births, indicated that there exists a 19% increased risk of a preterm birth if exposed to the aforementioned factor, with 19,000 births identified as preterm by scientists in the course of their research.
Researchers established that preterm birth were higher among mothers who were exposed to high levels of airborne particle pollution above the EPA standard, with diesel exhaust particles making up a significant portion of this matter in the vast majority of urban areas.
Commenting on the results of the study, Emily DeFranco, DO, a physician-researcher at the Center for Prevention of Preterm Birth at Cincinnati Children's and an associate professor of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Cincinnati, asserted that while the risk may seem minimal, the implications are far-reaching.
"Although the risk increase is modest, the potential impact is robust, as all pregnant women are potentially at risk," she explained while reflecting on the study which harnessed birth records in Ohio between the years 2007 and 2010.
"We estimate that decreasing the amount of particulate matter in the air below the EPA's standard threshold could decrease preterm birth in women exposed to high levels of small particulates by about 17 percent, which corresponds to a 2.22 percent decrease in the preterm birth rate in the population as a whole," she explained.
The study, which was published in the journal, Environmental Health, indicated that the greatest danger is posed during a woman's third trimester.