Burning increases by up to 31% the chance of a baby being born prematurely in the Southeast region

FGV studies investigate impact of wildfires, climate variability and air pollution on the health of newborn babies.

Much is said about the impact that climate change will bring in the future, yet it is already possible to see these effects on the health of babies nowadays. This is shown in a scientific research conducted by the School of Public Policy and Government of the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV EPPG), which identified a greater chance of premature births, with congenital malformation or low birth weight, if the mother has been exposed to wildfires, temperature variations and air pollution during the first three months of pregnancy.

An increase of 100 wildfires was associated with an 18.55% greater chance of a child being born with low birth weight in south of Brazil, considering that the mothers were exposed to these fires during the first trimester of pregnancy. This article, which also identified an increase of approximately 1%, for the Midwest region, was published in the Scientific Journal The Lancet.

Related to prematurity, the Southeast region recorded the greatest impact considering exposure to wildfires. The index found a 31% increase in the chance for the baby to be born prematurely if the pregnant women were also exposed to this phenomenon during the same period of pregnancy. While in the North, the chance of premature births due to wildfires increases by 5%.

Finally, among the 12 categories of congenital malformation that were analyzed in another study, the most relevant were in the palate and nose regions, which had an increase of 0.7%, diseases in the respiratory system, which was 1.3%, and in the nervous system with 0.2% increase. The regions most affected by the impact of wildfires on babies' congenital malformation were in the North, South, and Midwest.

Impact of climate variation

Researcher Weeberb Réquia, who coordinated the research, explains that the same factors "low weight, prematurity, and congenital malformation" were also researched in association with climate variations. According to him, these three factors are some of the indicators for categorizing a healthy birth, according to the medical community. In addition, he points out that the first three months of pregnancy are fundamental for the baby's health, because it is the crucial moment of its formation.

"Using the same methodology, we identified that the effect of climate on the birth of underweight children was only relevant in the North region, specifically in the Amazon region. With a 1 degree Celsius increase in temperature there is 5.16% more chance that a child will be born with low weight", informed the professor.

He points out that this effect is cumulative, that is, for each degree of temperature increase, there is a greater than 5% chance that the child will be born underweight. "In studies in the field of environmental epidemiology we usually consider the association between environmental exposure and health as a function of a given increase in exposure, to direct risk relevance and future decision making," Weeberb added.

The professor points out that research investigating the impact of climate variations on prematurity and congenital malformation is already underway. And after they are finalized he will set out to investigate the impact of air pollution, also on these three factors: low birth weight, early birth, and congenital anomalies.

Cross-referencing the data

To find the results, the researcher explains that he used satellite monitoring data that was linked to health data. In the study about forest fires, he used data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which maps daily the forest fires in Brazil, as well as data about births from DataSUS.

As for the study of climate variations, in addition to DataSUS, climate data from remote sensing, open to the public, made available by NASA, were used. "Today society lives in the Age of Data, and more and more, we can see that the market is absorbing this reality. For, who has data, has better means of action. In addition, the volume of information is not the same as it used to be. We now have a very large amount and that's why there are tools like Big Data to better analyze the potential of the evidence found in the data," said the researcher.

He reiterates that the public authorities have also understood the importance of this factor, since, nowadays, for a public manager to make decisions and create public policies, it is necessary to base them on evidence, which generally comes from scientific research. However, Weeberb points out that not all information will be available at the exact place and time that the researcher needs.

"Often a database doesn't have the information the researcher wants about a particular time or occurrence, so the scientific community has identified other ways to be able to fill those temporal and spatial information gaps. One of the solutions is to use satellite monitoring data, since it monitors constantly and its frequency is unlikely to fail," he said.

Satellite data, according to Weeberb, monitors numerous factors in Brazil. "By using this data, its application is not only feasible to study aspects of health and environment, as we have done in these surveys, but also for various areas such as safety, transportation, and economics. These findings can serve as a basis for the creation of public policies and thus contribute to socioeconomic development in our country and in the world," concluded the researcher, mentioning that the other researches are expected to be finished by the end of this year. You can access the full studies through this link. In addition, you can check out another study by the researcher, which investigates the impact of pollution on students' cognition, by clicking here.