“Suggestive evidence” of a link between air pollution and increased risk of stillbirth is growing, according to a new review.
Wide regional variations in the world’s stillbirth rates suggest most of last year’s 2.6 million stillbirths were preventable, the research team said.
“If the evidence of an association between ambient air population and stillbirth is confirmed in future studies, it would be of major public health importance,” said Marie Pedersen, of the Center for Epidemiology and Screening at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She was not involved in the study.
Previous examinations of available research indicated a connection between air pollution and stillbirth risk, but the association was weak. But new evidence has become available, so researchers from the University of Oulu in Finland analyzed three studies from the United States and Asia published up to 2015.
The new review found an association between exposure to air pollution, particularly during the third term of pregnancy, and an increased risk of stillbirth. However, the review doesn’t establish a cause-and-effect relationship, and further research is needed to learn more about this link, the researchers said.
Their findings were published online May 24 in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.
“Stillbirth is one of the most neglected tragedies in global health today, and the existing evidence summarized by [the authors] deserves additional investigation,” Pedersen wrote in an accompanying journal editorial.
Other factors potentially linked to increased risk of stillbirth include obesity, infections, alcohol, occupation and stress, the researchers said.
The March of Dimes has more about stillbirth.