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Here is a news item from yesterday’s inbox:

Study from Beijing Olympics links pollution to lower birth weights

When the Chinese government reduced air pollution levels during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, women there gave birth to children with higher birth weights compared to those who were pregnant before and after the games, according to research published this week inEnvironmental Health Perspectives.

“These findings not only illustrate one of the many significant health consequences of pollution, but also demonstrate that this phenomenon can be reversed,” said David Q. Rich, Associate Professor of Public Health Sciences and lead author of the study.

An aggressive Chinese program of restricting vehicle use, closing factories, halting construction projects, and seeding clouds to induce rainfall produced a significant decrease in the concentrations of particulate and gaseous air pollution for a 6-7 week period during the Olympic games. The restrictions were subsequently relaxed.

The researchers compiled information from 83,672 term births in four urban districts in Beijing. They compared babies born to mothers whoseeighth month of pregnancy occurred during the 2008 Olympics/Paralympics with those whose mothers were in their eighth month of pregnancy at the same time of year in 2007 and 2009 when pollution levels were at their normally higher levels. They found that the babies born in 2008 were on average 23 grams larger than those in 2007 and 2009.

During the late stage of pregnancy the fetus experiences the greatest amount of physical growth, and the development of the central nervous, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal systems accelerates. The study suggests that pollution may be interfering with this period of development.

A prior study based on the Beijing Olympics by this group, which also includes researchers from Duke, Rutgers, the University of California/San Francisco, Capital Medical University in Beijing and the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, demonstrated that these same air pollution reductions resulted in improvements in several risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Read more . .

Remember that some in the environmental movement support subsidies for diesel fuels and tax breaks for diesel fuels in the name of those fuels (correctly) reducing CO2 emissions. Of course, combusting diesel fuels yields particulate pollution. So, let us ask, what is more harmful to human health and well-being, the air over Beijing or higher levels of carbon dioxide? And no, you don’t get to say we can have less of both.

One Response to “Dog Bites Man … Twice”

  1. jb says:

    “An aggressive Chinese program of restricting vehicle use, closing factories, halting construction projects, and seeding clouds to induce rainfall produced a significant decrease in the concentrations of particulate and gaseous air pollution…”

    This strikes me as a useful study because it demonstrates the cost that particulate air pollution can impose on fetal health.

    Of course a complete picture regarding the net impact/desirability of these restrictions would also have to consider ALL the costs they impose (e.g. closing factories).

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