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Exposure to common air pollutants and traffic during pregnancy significantly increases the risk of restricted fetal growth, even at levels well below those stipulated in current European Union (EU) air-quality directives, according to one of the largest studies of its kind, published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
The researchers estimate that for every increase of 5 micrograms per cubic metre (5µg/m³) in exposure to fine particulate matter during pregnancy, found in for example traffic fumes and industrial air pollutants, the risk of low birthweight at term rises by 18%. Importantly, this increased risk persists at levels below the existing EU annual air quality limit of 25µg/m³.
Marie Pedersen et al. Ambient air pollution and low birthweight: a European cohort study (ESCAPE). The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, Early Online Publication, 15 October 2013