In a recent investigation of 57 studies, which accounted for 32,798,152 births across the U.S., scientists found a significant association between heat, ozone, or fine particulate matters contributing to risks to pregnancy outcomes.
Further, based on factors outside of this particular study, it is possible that the ramifications of climate change as it relates to impacting pregnancy outcomes may disproportionately impact mothers in African-American and other minority communities.
What are the effects of climate change on pregnancy?
Numerous studies have demonstrated PM2.5 air particles, ozone depletion, and heat exposure results in adverse pregnancy side effects. (PM2.5 air particles are thinner than a single strand human hair. Humans can easily inhale this small particle of floating debris, leading to major health issues, and sometimes even death.)
Four studies from the investigation showed high temperatures increased premature birth from 8.6% to 21%. Furthermore, two studies showed an increase in 1 degree Celcius the week before delivery causes a 6% greater chance of miscarriages. Scientists also found that 5.6 degrees Celcius increase could cause a low birth weight for 15.8% of mothers in their third trimester.
Now, what do all these numbers mean to you? Well, the 2017 global temperatures averaged 0.90 degrees Celcius warmer than the 1951 to 1980 average.
With temperatures steadily rising, the risk for pregnant mothers is spiking as well — especially in African American communities.
What it means for African-American communities
The Union of Concerned Scientists found that low-income communities are inordinately exposed to more air pollution.
For example, black communities in California face 43% more PM2.5 air particles than white communities because they live closer to highways, power plants, and other high polluting facilities. This may explain why researchers found that Black mothers are 2.4 times to have low birth weight compared to White mothers.
In addition, minority communities are also more likely to live in hotter areas. Researchers call the “heat island” effect, which is largely due to closer living proximities.
Climate change is just one of the many issues
Now, with the Trump rolling back environmental laws, our current health and future generations are in danger. Yet, a disproportionate amount of Black mothers affected goes beyond environmental laws.
For example, many members of the African-American community don’t have access to equitable treatment and medical assistance. Structural racism has caused climate change to disproportionately affect African American communities.
“We need to look at policies that provide equitable opportunities for communities of color,” said Dr. Hollis, a Senior Climate Justice and Health Scientist.
If we don’t address all facets of structural racism now, adding environmental laws won’t even help those affected most.
Jalen Xing is a Writer at theRising and the co-founder of Students For Hospitals. You can pitch him stories at jalen.xing [at] gmail [dot] com.