A new study released by the University of Utah shows global warming could be adversely affecting babies in the womb.
By analyzing data on 70,000 births in Africa between 1986 and 2010, University researchers found that climate change could be responsible for lowering birth weights. They found that in areas with increases in hot days and declining rainfall, there have been increases in the number of births of underweight babies. Babies with a birth weight of under 5.5 pounds are considered underweight.
Assistant geography professor at Utah and study head, Kathryn Grace, says that by studying health data and weather records for 19 African countries, her researchers were able to calculate regional temperatures and rainfall amounts near each woman throughout their pregnancy. She says areas that had more 100-plus-degree days also had smaller babies.
"Even a single day in the second trimester with the mercury topping 100 correlated to a 0.9-gram weight deficit," says the study.
Grace says even though her research focused on Africa, she sees “potential for similar outcomes everywhere.”
The study also pointed out the consequences of its findings in saying "Low birth weight infants are more susceptible to illness, face a higher risk of mortality, are more likely to develop disabilities and are less likely to attain the same level of education and income as an infant born within a healthy weight range.
Consequently, the financial burden of a low birth weight infant can be significant. The costs of newborn intensive care unit stays and services, re-hospitalization and long-term morbidity can add up quickly, and in developing countries where such support services are less common and physical disability is considered a social stigma, low birth weight can be particularly impactful".
Grace says to counter the adverse effects "We need to work faster and differently to combat the evident stresses caused by climate change. At the end of the day, the services we invest in to support these developing countries won’t reap the same level of benefits as long as climate change continues. Services such as education, clean water efforts and nutrition support won’t be as effective."