Exposure to air pollution significantly reduces foetus size during pregnancy, according to a new study by Brisbane scientists.
Queensland University of Technology senior research fellow Dr Adrian Barnett said the study compared the foetus sizes of more than 15,000 ultrasound scans in Brisbane to air pollution levels within a 14km radius of the city.
"The study found that mothers with a higher exposure to air pollution had foetuses that were, on average, smaller in terms of abdominal circumference, head circumference and femur length," Dr Barnett said.
The 10-year study, which was undertaken by Dr Barnett, Dr Craig Hansen (US Environmental Protection Agency) and Dr Gary Pritchard (PacUser), has been published in the international journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Dr Barnett, who is based at QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, said the study looked at foetuses between 13 and 26 weeks duration.
"To our knowledge this is the first study of its kind as it uses ultrasound measurement as a direct estimate of growth, rather than using birth weight as a delayed measure of growth," Dr Barnett said.
"When analysing scans from women at different distances to monitoring sites, we found that there was a negative relationship between pollutants such as sulphur dioxide found in diesel emissions, and ultrasound measurement.
"If the pollution levels were high the size of the foetus decreased significantly."
Dr Barnett said with research showing that bigger babies were healthier in childhood and adulthood, foetus size during pregnancy was important.
"Birth weight is a major predictor of later health, for example, bigger babies have been shown to have higher IQs in childhood and lower risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood," he said.
"While some people may think there is no air pollution in Brisbane because the air looks so clean, you have to remember that most
|Contact: Sandra Hutchinson|
Queensland University of Technology