GUWAHATI: As the world progresses with its technological and industrial advancements, the very bare essential to sustain life such as the air we breathe is growing dangerously polluted.
Poor air quality is often associated with a considerable proportion of pregnancy loss in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, according to a modelling study published in the Lancet Planetary Health journal on January 7.
According to Modelling study reports, pregnant women are at higher risk of stillbirths and miscarriages when exposed to poor air quality. Such losses are however more common in north India and Pakistan. Previous studies have also suggested a direct link between air pollution and pregnancy loss in other regions. But this is the first study to rank South Asia, which is the most populous region in the world as the region having the highest rate of pregnancy loss as well.
The developing fetus is particularly susceptible to environmental pollutants, and evidence has shown adverse effects of air pollutants on pregnancy and birth outcomes. Pregnancy loss, including spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) and stillbirth, is the most severe adverse pregnancy outcome.
"South Asia has the highest burden of pregnancy loss globally and is one of the most PM2·5 polluted regions in the world," said lead author on the study, Dr Tao Xue, Peking University, China. "Among some of the explanations why air pollution can cause pregnancy loss is that fine particles have been reported to cross the blood placenta barrier and harm the embryo directly. Exposure to poor air quality can cause disorders such as inflammation, oxidative stress and blood pressure elevation which can act as factors to increase the risk of pregnancy loss," Dr Tao added.
To carry out the analysis, the authors combined data from household surveys on health from 1998-2016. Using this association, they calculated the number of pregnancy losses that may have been caused by PM2.5 in the whole region for the period 2000–16 and looked at how many pregnancy losses might have been prevented under India's and WHO's air quality standard. The increase in risk was greater for mothers from rural areas or those who became pregnant at an older age, compared to younger mothers from urban areas.
From 2000 to 2016, 349,681 pregnancy losses per year were associated with ambient exposure to air pollution exceeding India's air quality standard- accounting for 7% of the total annual pregnancy loss burden in this region.