Underweight infants, defined as under 5.5 pounds, face bigger hurdles in life, including higher rates of disabilities and greater susceptibilty to illness and mortality. This one reason why health care professionals aim to prevent exposure to environmental sources they know will cause harm to a fetus in utero. Researchers at the University of Utah found that climate change may be lowering birth weights, particularly in places with declining rainfall and an increase in hot days. As CityLab reports below, "low birth weight is the most reliable measure of whether a pregnancy has been negatively affected by an external factor." Pediatricians can use this information to help inform discussions on how the medical communities can best contribute to climate solutions. ecoAmerica's report, Climate Impacts: Take Care and Prepare also shows new potential message frames that may be effective to increase action and urgency on climate.
By John Metcalfe I Sep 30, 2015
There’s ample evidence climate change will likely affect our children’s health—breeding stagnant, lung-punishing air, for instance, and possibly doubling the pollen count by 2040. But is it possible the warming world will hurt newborns before they even have a chance to live in it?
Researchers at the University of Utah and elsewhere say that could be so. They’ve analyzed 70,000 births in Africa from 1986 to 2010 and found that climate change could be lowering birth weights. Specifically, they believe women in places with declining rainfall and an increase in hot days are having more underweight babies (defined as those below 5.5 pounds).
Kathryn Grace, an assistant geography professor at Utah, and colleagues studied USAID-funded health data and weather records for 19 Africa countries. They were able to calculate regional precipitation amounts and temperatures near each woman throughout her pregnancy. Areas that experienced more 100-plus-degree days also had smaller babies, they say. Even a single day in the second trimester with the mercury topping 100 correlated to a 0.9-gram weight deficit, according to their study in Global Environmental Change.
Though this investigation focused on Africa, Grace says she sees “potential for similar outcomes everywhere,” according to a Utah press release.
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