Wildfires affect mothers and babies
More pregnant women are being exposed to wildfire. Science looks at the effects on them and their babies
Researchers recently reviewed the scientific literature on wildfire’s effects on pregnancy and childbirth. This mega-study found a link between wildfire exposure during pregnancy and birth weight. It also found links between wildfire exposure and birth defects.
Wildfire has been a part of forest and bushland ecology for millennia. Through history, human exposure to wildfire has nonetheless been rare. More recently, however, more human development has spread into woodlands and brushlands, and the interface between the urban or suburban environment and wildlands has increased.
More people close to the woods and open lands means that the chances of a stray spark or tossed cigarette starting a fire has increased. Also, with climate change, wildfires have become more intense and destructive throughout the world. These factors—more people living close to wildlands and more wildfires—mean that people are more likely to be endangered by wildfire and more likely to be exposed to wildfire smoke, including pregnant women and their babies.
Researchers perform these mega-studies from time to time. They can help find trends in the scientific research. The researchers screened 480 studies, narrowing those down to 16 that met all their criteria. Winnowing out so many studies is not unusual in reviews such as this one. In the present review, the scientists excluded studies if they were performed on animals and not humans or if the research was repeating a previous study design. The studied comprising this mega-study were conducted in the United States, Australia, and Brazil
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