Women in Beijing who were in the final stages of pregnancy during the 2008 Olympics—when the government took measures to ensure that walking through the smog-shrouded streets wouldn’t be a health hazard to humans—ended up giving birth to heavier and most likely healthier babies, according to a study released in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
The study, led by epidemiologist David Rich of the University of Rochester Medical Center, concluded that babies born during the 2008 Olympic period were around 23 grams heavier than those born during the same period in 2007 and 2009.
“These findings not only illustrate one of the many significant health consequences of pollution, but also demonstrate that this phenomenon can be reversed,” Rich said in a statement.
In the weeks leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the capital shut down factories and removed cars from the roads as a temporary fix to guarantee clear skies during the games, a blissful period of pollutant-free air now nostalgically referred to as “Olympic Blue“. Similar efforts are made ahead of large diplomatic events in the city, including the APEC summit held in November, when Beijing residents reveled in a sweet and short-lived span of suddenly blue skies.
During the 2008 Olympics, Beijing saw a 60 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide, a 48 percent cut in carbon monoxide, 43 percent less nitrogen dioxide in the air and a lower PM2.5 count, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Researchers from the US and China, who examined records of over 83,000 Beijing births from 2007 to 2009, found no association for mothers in earlier stages of pregnancy (one to seven months).
“While Beijing’s pollution is particularly noteworthy, many of the world’s other cities face similar air quality problems,” Junfeng Zhang, a doctor with the Duke Global Health Institute and a co-author of the study, was quoted as saying. “This study shows that pollution controls—even short-term ones—can have positive public health benefits.”
Experts had previously turned people off of the idea of baby-makin’ in the motherland with claims that China’s noxious haze was resulting in “uglier” sperm, a conclusion which was later challenged by researchers.
[Image Credit: Bobi-home]