In a study by scientists at NYU’s Longone Medical Center, and published in Environmental Health Perspectives, the conclusion was drawn that 3% of premature births are due to “air pollution.”
“Air pollution comes with a tremendous cost, not only in terms of human life, but also in terms of the associated economic burden to society,” says lead study investigator Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, a professor at NYU Langone. “It is also important to note that this burden is preventable, and can be reduced by limiting emissions from automobiles and coal-fired power plants.”
According to Trasande, the national percentage of premature births in the U.S. has declined from a peak of 12.8 percent in 2006 to 11.4 percent in 2013, but the number remains well above those of other developed countries.
If that view is correct, then China, which has a small particulate matter concentration that is regularly five times higher than the air quality in Los Angeles, should result in a significant increase in premature births.
But that’s not the case.
The premature birth rate in China is 7.08% compared to 12.03% in the United States.
While other health factors contribute to the larger rate of premature births in the States, by Trasande’s calculations, a five-fold increase in air pollution would naturally correlate to a significantly higher premature births in China.
The researchers relied on data from the Environmental Protection Agency while planning to conduct further research using their own data on particulate matter.
The call to limit emissions from coal-fired power plants and cars based upon the report, without providing specific links to the pollution, is suspect.