Jakarta Pollution Makes Babies Underweight at Birth

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If you still think the impact of air pollution is only about respiratory diseases, think again. The thing is, it turns out that air pollution can also cause babies to be born underweight, aka low birth weight (LBW). This conclusion comes from research conducted in Jakarta.

Impact of pollution on babies

So far, the air quality in Jakarta has not been good. The main pollutant in Jakarta is PM2.5, the concentration of which can reach dozens of times higher than the WHO annual air quality guideline value.

As a result, not only is the incidence of respiratory disorders increasing, but also various other diseases, including fetal growth disorders which cause babies to be born with low birth weight.

WHO has called air pollution a health emergency for children around the world. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t get special attention.

In fact, children who live in environments with poor air quality have a higher risk of being affected by air pollution.

This is because body organs such as the heart and lungs, as well as body systems, such as the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, in babies and children are still in the development stage.

One of the results of research related to the impact of pollution in Jakarta on babies and children was carried out by researchers from the University of Europe and published in a journal Environmental Research and Public Health early 2023 via the site Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI).

This research revealed that exposure to PM2.5 pollutants in Jakarta in 2019 reached an average of 52 μg/m³. This figure is 10 times higher than the WHO standard which limits exposure to pollutants at 5 μg/m³.

The high exposure to PM2.5 pollutants in Jakarta in 2019 had a very detrimental impact on babies and children, namely:

  • 6,153 cases of stunting in children, or around 7 out of 1,000 children under 5 years old.
  • 680 babies with low birth weight (LBW), or around 5 in 1,000 births.
  • 62 babies were born prematurely, or about 4 in 10,000 births.
  • 327 infant deaths or about 2 in 1,000 births.

Babies are said to have low birth weight when they are born weighing less than 2,500 grams or 2.5 kilograms. Babies born with LBW can experience various health complications and require special care.

The impact of LBW in the long term

When the impact of pollution on a baby causes the baby to be born LBW, there are several health risks that may be experienced, including:

  • Respiratory problems.
  • Bleeding in the brain or also called intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH).
  • Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA), a condition where the opening between the 2 main blood vessels originating from the heart does not close properly.
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis (EKN), a condition that damages the baby’s intestines.
  • Retinopathy of prematurity. Eye disorders when the baby’s retina does not develop properly within a few weeks after birth.
  • Jaundice. The baby’s eyes and skin look yellow due to too much bilirubin in the blood.
  • Infections caused by the immune system not yet fully developing.

Apart from the increased health risks above, LBW babies can also experience long-term health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

To prevent the impact of pollution on babies, you should check the air quality in the surrounding environment regularly. This information can be obtained from the internet or by downloading applications for air quality monitoring.

It’s best not to leave the house or open windows when the air quality is poor. If you have to do activities outside, you should use a good quality mask. Use air purifier or tools filter Indoor air can also help reduce the impact of pollution on babies.