Air pollution is linked to an increased risk of cot death

Exposure to fine-air particles, which weigh less than 0.0025mg and are given out in vehicle-exhaust fumes, is associated with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), a UK study found.

Air pollution is linked to an increased risk of cot death, new research suggests.

Nitrogen oxide, which is released when fuel is burned, may also be behind seemingly healthy babies suddenly passing away, the research adds.

Previous research suggests fine-air particles enter people’s brains when they breathe and spread via their bloodstreams, leading to inflammation.

Children are thought to be more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution due to their fragile immune systems and underdeveloped lungs.

According to the World Health Organization, air pollution causes more than 3.7 million premature deaths every year.

SIDS is the leading cause of death among healthy babies aged between one and 12 months.


Young children who grow up exposed to air pollution are more likely to develop asthma, research suggested in December 2017.

A mix of dust, sand and non-exhaust tailpipe emissions, known as coarse particulate matter, increases youngsters under 11’s risk of the lung condition by 1.3 per cent, a study by The Johns Hopkins University found.

Air pollution also raises their risk of visiting the emergency room due to their asthma by 3.3 per cent and being hospitalised with the condition by 4.5 per cent, the research adds.

Young children are thought to be more at risk due to them typically spending a lot of time outdoors and being vulnerable to air pollution due to their immature lungs, according to the researchers.

Around 7.1 million children in the US have asthma, making it the most common chronic childhood illness.

Approximately 1.1 million youngsters are affected in the UK.

The researchers analysed the asthma diagnoses and treatment data of 7,810,025 children aged between five and 20 years old living in 34 states between 2009 and 2010.

They estimated levels of coarse particulate matter in each zip code using information from the EPA’s Air Quality System database from 2009 to 2010.

‘Responsibility of individuals’ to protect their babies from air pollution  

The researchers, from the University of Birmingham, wrote: ‘Until policy reflects the growing evidence and responds to mounting public concern, it would appear to be the responsibility of individuals to take independent action to mitigate the effects of air pollution and protect the health of their young ones.’

They suggest babies should be kept indoors as much as possible to minimise their air-pollution exposure.

For those who can afford it, the scientists also recommend using indoor air-cleaning systems.

The findings were published in the journal BMJ.

How the research was carried out

The researchers analysed SIDS mortality data from between 1996 and 2006 in the West Midlands. This region was chosen due to it being heavily urbanised.

SIDS cases were linked to the babies’ postcodes.

Air-pollution data was collected from 10 monitoring systems, including sites in Birmingham and Coventry.

Babysitters put infants at risk of cot death

This comes after research released earlier this month suggested babysitters may be putting infants at risk of cot death by placing them in unsafe sleeping positions.

Newborns who die from SIDS while under the supervision of a childcare worker are more likely to be placed lying on their fronts, a study found.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies sleep on their backs to reduce their risk of overheating or receiving inadequate oxygen to the brain.

Infants who die under the care of a nanny are also more likely to have objects, such as toys and blankets, in their crib, the research adds. Such items raise the risk of suffocation or strangulation.

Study author Dr Rachel Moon, from the University of Virginia, said: ‘If someone else – a babysitter, relative or friend – is taking care of your baby, please make sure that they know to place your baby on their back in a crib and without any bedding.’

Approximately 20 percent of SIDS incidents occur while infants are under the supervision of someone other than their parents.

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