Highways and premature babies

A new study says that pregnant women who live near urban highways are at greater risk of delivering premature babies or babies with low birth weight.

Researchers from the University of Montreal and the University of South Australia have found that affluent women who live within 200 metres of a highway have a 58 per cent greater risk of delivering a premature baby.

"Advantaged mothers may be more susceptible to highway pollution, possibly because they have been protected from other hazards present in low income neighbourhoods," explains Dr. Melissa Généreux, of the University of Montreal and Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital.

The findings are significant because premature babies and babies with low birth weight are at greater risk for a number of health problems, such as breathing and feeding difficulties, hypothermia, jaundice, impaired brain development and even death.

The researchers analyzed data from 100,000 births in the Montreal area over a five-year span. The findings are published in the August edition of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.