Saturday, September 15, 2012

Babies born following 2003 California wildfires have lower birthweight, study shows

Gautham Thomas in the Daily Californian: Babies born to women pregnant during wildfires in Southern California in 2003 tended to have slightly lower birthweights than babies born to women pregnant in the same area at other times, according to a recently released study out of UC Berkeley.

The study, published in the September 2012 issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, examined data on births of babies born to women living in the South Coast Air Basin who were pregnant during this period as well as data for babies from the same area born before and after October 2003. The South Coast Air Basin includes Orange County as well as parts of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Smoke from a series of wildfires that destroyed more than 750,000 acres of forest blanketed the area in late October 2003, according to the study.

Rachel Morello-Frosch, one of the study’s authors and a campus associate professor in the department of environmental science, policy and management, said the study was prompted in part by the increasing frequency of wildfires in western regions, including California.

The researchers studied a total of more than 138,000 birth records of pregnant women in all three trimesters who were exposed to smoke from the fires in Southern California, according to the study. The study found a slight reduction, ranging between three to 10 grams, in the birthweight of babies born to women who lived in the area during the fires.

“In the delivery room, a reduction of seven to 10 grams isn’t a big deal,” Morello-Frosch said. “But decrements in birthweight in a large population might mean shifting the birthweight profile of a large population downward. Combined with other pollutants that also reduce birthweight, this is significant.”...

Artwork by Kókay Szabolcs, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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