Science has for a while now posited that there is a strong correlation between exposure to toxic air pollution and negative birth outcomes. A new cross-sectional study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham was recently released. It looked into the relationship between proximity to coke and steel production facilities and birth outcomes such as preterm birth or low birth weight.
The study, “Spatiotemporal association between birth outcomes and coke production and steel making facilities in Alabama, USA,” was published in the journal Environmental Health. Dr. Julia Gohlke was the study’s lead author.
Gohlke’s team found a correlation between low birth weight and above-average volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from coke and steel facilities during the birth year. They also found that emission of heavy metals were associated with preterm birth.
The researchers’ ultimate conclusion was that “further research teasing apart the relationship between exposure to emissions and area-level deprivation in neighborhoods surrounding industrial facilities and their combined effects on birth outcomes is needed.”
GASP has long said that one of the most important keys to changing the status quo is to better understand the reality of how toxic pollution is really hurting our health and our communities. This study is a beginning.
More research is indeed needed, just as the team concluded, but this will certainly go a long way in helping us understand the breadth and the depth of the problems caused by dirty air. GASP continues to call on UAB and the Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH) to conduct a comprehensive health survey to investigate environmental health issues in Birmingham.
Michael joined GASP in 2013 as communications specialist. He has lived in Birmingham since 2008, and is an active member of the Birmingham community. He’s a passionate advocate for health equity, civil rights and equality. He is currently serving as executive director. Email Michael