Smoke from wildfires may contribute to premature births

As forest fires ravage the west, burning millions of acres, they produce blankets of smoke that spread far beyond the limits of the fire...

As forest fires ravage the west, burning millions of acres, they produce blankets of smoke that spread far beyond the limits of the fires themselves. Now, new research indicates that air pollution is putting some of the most vulnerable at risk: unborn children.

The results, published this month in Environmental Research, suggested that from 2007 to 2012 in California, approximately 7,000 preterm births, or nearly 4% of all such births in those years, were associated with exposure to wildfire smoke.

This is the latest sign of the potential health risks of smoke from forest fires, which can include not only soot and ash from burning trees and undergrowth, but also the chemicals that are released when the fire burns. houses, cars and countless other things catch fire during forest fires. race through towns and neighborhoods.

Smoke from wildfires can dull the body’s immune response, causing mild but bothersome sore throat or coughing with severe cardiovascular and respiratory problems. Research published this month found that exposure to smoke from wildfires last summer could be linked to thousands of additional Covid-19 infections and hundreds of deaths during the pandemic.

And by almost every measurement, wildfires in the United States are deterioration. They grow, spread faster, and reach higher altitudes. Their plumes also extend further. Smoke from wildfires across Canada and the West last month extended across the United States, triggering health alerts in cities as far east as Toronto and Philadelphia.

New research on preterm infants, which focused only on California, found that one week of exposure was associated with a 3% increased risk of preterm birth. In 2008, the worst smoking year of the study period, researchers found that exposure to smoke from wildfires was associated with more than 6% of all preterm births in California.

“We knew that air pollution increased the risk of preterm birth, but this new work highlights the importance of pollutants associated with smoke from forest fires, which may be different from other sources of pollution in the home. ‘air, and are increasingly becoming an issue with climate change, “said Lara Cushing, an environmental health scientist at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health, who was not involved in the research.

Smoke from wildfires contains high levels of the smallest and most dangerous type of soot. Exposure to these particles, known as PM 2.5, is believed to cause inflammation in the body, put pressure on the immune system, and decrease blood flow to organs, including the placenta, which can trigger contractions and childbirth.

Premature births, or births that occur between 20 and 36 weeks of pregnancy, are associated with a range of developmental delays and respiratory, visual and hearing problems and can contribute to chronic disease in adulthood. They account for 10 percent of all births in the United States and are one of the leading causes of infant mortality.

Forest fires intensified in the years following the study period. “2020 has been about two and a half times worse than 2008, and four of the past five years have been worse than 2008,” said Sam Heft-Neal, Stanford University Center researcher on Food Security and the Environment and lead author of the study.

The findings are based on a well-established link between air pollution and fetal health problems.

To reach their conclusion, the researchers used satellite data from the smoke plumes to identify the locations and days affected by the wildfires. They paired these readings with ground-level PM 2.5 data and birth records in California.

Smoke from wildfires can contribute up to half of PM 2.5 in parts of the western United States. It is not clear whether smoke from forest fires is more or less toxic than particles from diesel combustion or power plants.

Rupa Basu, chief of air and climate epidemiology at the Environmental Health Risk Assessment Office of the California Environmental Protection Agency, said that in addition to thinking about the effects of exposure to forest fires on the health of infants, the effects on mothers should also be taken into account.

“There are mental health issues that go hand in hand with the stress of having a premature baby,” said Dr Basu, who has studied the effects of climate change and the environment on pregnant women and noted that premature births could also occur faster and more spontaneously than expected, which adds to the potential for trauma.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Smoke from wildfires may contribute to premature births
Smoke from wildfires may contribute to premature births
Newsrust - US Top News
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