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In a ground-breaking study published today in Lancet Global Health, researchers present findings challenging conventional wisdom regarding the impact of household air pollution on fetal growth. The study, conducted in 3200 households across resource-poor settings in Guatemala, India, Rwanda, and Peru, focused on assessing the effects of reducing personal exposures to household air pollution on fetal growth in a randomized controlled trial.

Pregnant woman of Indian ethnic background cooking in her kitchen


Incomplete combustion of biomass fuels such as wood, crop waste, and animal dung, which are used for cooking in 36% of households worldwide, result in household air pollution. Household air pollution is estimated to be responsible for 2.3 million premature deaths and 91.5 million disability-adjusted life-years lost annually. Women, often the primary cooks at home, bear the brunt of exposure to household air pollution.

To assess the impact of air pollution reduction on fetal growth, half of pregnant women were assigned the use of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) stoves, resulting in a significant 66% reduction in exposure to fine particulate matter, whereas the remaining half continued the use of the habitual biomass fuels for cooking. Unlike previous studies that relied solely on birth weight, this research utilized ultrasounds to track fetal growth, providing a more nuanced understanding of the impact of air pollution on prenatal development.

However, despite this substantial reduction in exposure, researchers found no clinically meaningful differences in fetal growth between the intervention group and those who continued using biomass fuels. These results are consistent with previous findings from the same group relating to the impact of air pollution on birthweight.


Read the full story on the  Nuffield Department of Women’s & Reproductive Health website.