Low birth weight (LBW) has for some time been one of the conditions an expectant woman has to worry about when it comes to the delivery of her baby. The announcement of the arrival of a bouncing baby girl or boy has never been complete without the accompaniment of the weight of the baby, the heavier he or she is, the healthier they are assumed to be.
The average birth weight that is considered healthy for a newborn by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is anything above 2.5kg. Babies weighing less than that are normally considered to have a low birth weight which not uncommonly brings with it a number of complications, among them low immune systems which makes the baby prone to child diseases and health complications later in life.
CAUSES OF LOW BIRTH WEIGHT
Numerous reasons have been said to cause low birth weight including smoking by expectant mothers, premature births, young ages in motherhood, alcohol, multiple pregnancies ,poor nutrition and insufficient prenatal healthcare, and as it now emerges air pollution is on the list as well.
INDUSTRIAL AND CAR EMISSIONS
As highlighted by The Daily Nation on Thursday February 7, 2013, according to a recent report published in the journal Nature, pregnant women exposed to higher levels of air pollution from industrial and car emissions are more likely to have underweight children.
Researchers studied data from three million births at 14 research centres in nine countries, which included rapidly industrializing nations, by focusing on air pollutions.
According to the research, the chances of an infant being underweight increased when more air pollutants were at play. Lead particles found in petrol are said to inhibit enzymes as well as cause damage to kidneys, brain and the nervous system.
Low birth weight constitutes sixty to eighty percent of the infant mortality rate in developing countries and it’s therefore crucial to regulate some of these environmental factors that cause LWB.
BELCHING BUSES AND LORRIES
So know we know that high vehicle emissions are dangerous to the health of babies, a concerning thought when one considers the lorries, buses and matatus belching out fumes on our city streets, or as they chug up hills heavily over laden.
The Kenya police have the power to pull such vehicles over to the side of the road and check their levels of emissions. The ‘General information on traffic regulations’ says that; ‘The exhaust shall not emit dense blue or clearly visible black smoke’, and that, ‘The concentration of carbon monoxide (CO) shall not exceed 0.5% of volume and hydrocarbons shall not exceed 0.12%/volume’.
It’s high time the Kenya police enforced such regulations, says the Kenya Forum, for all our sakes, but particularly for the sake of mothers and unborn children.