Wildfire Smoke Linked to Lower Birth Weights

September 06, 2012

By David Danelski, Press Enterprise

Pregnant women exposed to wildfire smoke during Southern California’s epic 2003 fire season had babies with lower birth weights, UC Berkeley researchers have found.

The scientists examined birth records in areas affected by smoke from seven fires – including the Old Fire that burned across the mountains and into the city of San Bernardino – that altogether consumed 750,000 acres. The results of the study were published online Wednesday, Sept. 5, in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The differences in the newborns’ weights were small, slightly less than 10 grams for those exposed during the second trimester of the pregnancy, but the finding was significant, said Rachel Morello-Frosch, one of the authors and an associate professor’s at Berkeley’s School of Public Health [and in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Managemeent].

The study shows that climate change can affect health, she said, pointing out that wildfires are expected to become more frequent as the planet warms.

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