November 17: World Prematurity Day


How World Prematurity Day  came about

Every year on November 17, World Prematurity Day (World Prematurity Day) is celebrated, an event recognized by the European Parliament and established to bring attention to issues concerning prematurity. The initiative originated on November 17, 2008, in Rome during a meeting of the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (Efcni).


Premature births in numbers

Quanti sono i bambini nati prematuri e quelli nati sottopeso

According to World Health Organization(WHO) estimates, about 15 million premature infants and more than 3 million babies born underweight are born worldwide each year.

Unfortunately, 1 million babies die as a result while some of those who survive have permanent damage, such as cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, and cognitive disabilities.

In Italy, babies born prematurely number more than 30 thousand (6.9% of births), a rate that has increased to 11.2% in births to women infected with Sars-Cov-2.

Babies who came into the world before 37 weeks’ gestation or at term but low weight from the earliest moments of life need neonatal intensive care specifically for their needs, especially the smallest babies, called “very preterm” or “extremely preterm” (under 32 or 28 weeks’ gestation, respectively), which are the most problematic.

The risks to the baby’s future mainly involve respiratory disease, heart disease, and neurological diseases that can lead to psycho-motor delays.


What are the causes?

Inquinamento dell'aria

Air pollution,  among its negative effects, can not only promote the onset of diseases such as lung cancer and asthma but can also affect cases of premature births and babies born underweight.

[Source: Environmental Health Perspectives]
An analysis was carried out aimed at calculating the real burden of household and air pollution on the health of new mothers and fetuses by combining the results of several scientific studies conducted so far. For the research, the team of researchers reviewed 108 studies related to indoor and outdoor pollution, correlating the results with four main risk factors in pregnancy: gestation period at delivery, reduced birth weight, underweight status of the newborn, and premature birth. The survey involved 204 countries worldwide.
After contemplating other risk factors besides pollution such as new mother’s lifestyle, diet, alcohol and tobacco consumption in the survey, it was found that air pollution is the main cause of underweight newborns and premature births.
According to the researchers, if air pollution could be reduced, the number of babies born premature or underweight could decrease by 78% each year.
”At the individual level, exposure to air pollution at home appears to have much more devastating effects than air breathed outside,” says epidemiologist Rakesh Ghosh, author of the study. – Therefore, minimizing exposure to home pollution as much as possible should be part of the care to be provided to pregnant women to protect the health of the unborn.”


The invisible pollutants we breathe in the home

Inquinanti indoor: invisibili e pericolosi

When the concentration of smog is excessive, or when there is a fire nearby, we tend to lock ourselves inside our home. In this way, we avoid contact with pollutants that are suspended in the outside air, and by staying in the home environment we feel safe. However, this is a wrong choice or rather an unconscious one: pollutants that are dangerous to human health accumulate in the home as well so if we think we are invulnerable within the home, we are mistaken.
In the home and in enclosed spaces in general, there is a limited amount of air available, which will be progressively contaminated by various substances including carbon dioxide, which causes headaches and difficulty concentrating, replacing the oxygen we breathe.
Daily activities such as showering, washing dishes, and hanging out the laundry produce excess moisture, which settles in condensation on walls and furniture and promotes the development of mold.
Air pollution is also measured on the basis of exposure to particulate matter particles smaller than 2.5 microns (PM 2.5): once inhaled by breathing, these particles are rapidly absorbed by the blood and enter the circulation, becoming a potential cause of respiratory problems and other diseases.
Another serious hazard within our homes is volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemical compounds released from the use of solid fuels such as wood and coal for heating and cooking and from the use of some household hygiene products.
Finally, Radon (RN), an odorless and colorless gas that is highly carcinogenic, can seep from the soil.


What to do about it?

Il problema dell'inquinamento dell'aria

We have seen how air quality is important not only outdoors but also indoors, partly due to the fact that exposure to indoor pollution can often be dominant over outdoor pollution.
At the moment, according to experts, the only precaution that can be taken by pregnant women (and others) living in areas of high air pollution is to pay attention to the quality of the air you breathe outside but especially inside your home. To ensure a better quality of air, and of life, we need to start with awareness: to know what we breathe every day to prevent possible risks and intervene where necessary.

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