Children may be born underweight if the mother is exposed to high levels of air pollution, revealed scientists studying the impact of air quality on the weight of the new born in Beijing.
The researchers have based their claim on the study of 83,672 babies born during the summer of 2008 when the Chinese capital was playing host to the Olympics event. Babies were found to be born 23 grams heavier on average to mother who were on their eighth month of pregnancy during the Olympics compared to babies born during the same period in 2007 and 2009.
Explaining the phenomenon, the researchers stated foetal growth rate is at its highest during late pregnancy and the relatively cleaner air during Olympics could have ensured better nutrient delivery through the placenta. This might be the reason for babies to have slightly higher birth weight. The researchers though have stated they are yet to have across anything more conclusive.
The findings have been published in the Environmental Health Perspectives on Tuesday.
"Even a short term reduction in pollution in a community has a very large public health impact. Some of these babies will have fewer complications or diseases later in life, said David Rich, associate professor and health scientist from the University of Rochester, US. "So any time we can improve or increase birth weight we're protecting not only the babies when they are born, but also in later life."
The research team comprised of scientists from the Capital Medical University and Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences in Beijing, along with those from the Rutgers University, UC San Francisco and Duke University, reported TheGuardian.
The study assumes significance since all previous attempts to map the impact of pollution and its adverse health effects have been discouraged by the Chinese authorities that chose to focus entirely on rapid industrialization and economic growth strategies.
President Xi Jinping has promised to tackle pollution issues with an "iron fist" though independent estimates have stated more than 90 percent of cities in China continue to reel under heavy air, land and water pollution going by their own standards.
According to Latimes, the air quality has improved in capital city Beijing though only marginally.