How is the climate crisis affecting the health of babies, infants, and fetuses? Six new studies have found that the increase in heat from global warming has been linked to fast weight gain in babies, as well as premature birth, and increased hospital admissions for infants.
Babies’ fast weight gain has been linked to obesity later in life, and premature birth can lead to lifelong health effects.
Studies published in a special issue of the scientific journal Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology showed the impacts of climate hazards on health, from preconception through early childhood and into their adolescence.
The studies also revealed that smoke exposure from wildfires doubles the risk of severe birth defects and that air pollution from fossil fuel burning, even if it is at remotely low levels, can lead to reduced fertility.
Scientists say that it shows how climate change is a problem that affects everyone.
The studies that were published in the journal were conducted across the world, including in California, Israel, Denmark, and Australia.
The study conducted in California showed that when women are exposed to wildfires in the month before conception, the risk of a birth defect called gastroschisis was doubled. In gastroschisis, a baby’s intestines and other organs protrude to the outside of the body through a small hole.
In Israel, the link was made between heat and rapid weight gain within the first year of babies’ lives. In the birth of 200,000 babies, they found that those exposed to the highest 20 percent of temperatures at nighttime had a five percent risk of fast weight gain.
There were two studies that linked together high temperatures and premature birth. In Australia, a study assessed close to one million pregnant women for a decade between 2005 and 2014 and found that three percent delivered babies before the 37-week mark. They found that the women who lived in the hottest five percent of locations had a 16 percent higher risk of giving birth prematurely.
The second study occurred in Texas, from 2007 to 2011, and found that the risk of premature birth was 15 percent higher on days following extremely hot days.