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Breathe easy

02 July 2019
Volume 27 · Issue 7


Awareness of environmental issues is growing, including efforts to tackle air polluion. But, asks Louise Silverton CBE, is enough being done to protect pregnant women and their babies?

Air pollution is high on the news agenda. Many UK cities are in breach of EU clean air regulations and are looking to see how the situation can be improved. Consideration is being given to ultra-low emission zones, banning cars idling and controls over wood-burning stoves, among many other initiatives.

Advice from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) (2019) on air pollution refers only to children and those at risk due to lung or heart disease. It does not mention pregnant women. This is a serious oversight, given the emphasis on stopping smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke.

Does DEFRA not know the risks of air pollution for pregnant women? A study by Malley et al (2017) showed that air pollution was linked to 2.7 million preterm births worldwide. This study identified that particulate matter (from diesel vehicles, fires and industrial emissions) was a major cause. This is worrying, as UK cities have high levels of particulates in the air.

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