A new study analyzed the environmental factors to which 30,000 pregnant women in nine European cities have been exposed. The results, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, show differences depending on the socioeconomic status of the participants.
The socioeconomic status of pregnant women determines which environmental risks —such as air pollution or noise— are they exposed in cities, but the nature of the relationship varies greatly depending on the urban environment in which they live. This is the main conclusion of a study that included the participation of the Institute of Global Health of Barcelona (ISGlobal).
The urban exposome is the set of environmental factors to which a person is exposed in an outdoor urban environment throughout his life, such as air pollution, noise, climatic factors, and contact with green spaces, among many others. The unequal distribution of these environmental factors according to social, economic or demographic position is known as environmental inequity.
The study , part of the HELIX Project , aimed to describe the urban exposure of almost 30,000 pregnant women in nine European cities: Bradford (United Kingdom), Poitiers and Nancy (France), Sabadell, Valencia and Guipúzcoa (cohort of the INMA-Children and Environment Project, Spain), Kaunas (Lithuania), Oslo (Norway) and Heraklion (Greece).
The work associated the socio-economic status of the participants with 28 environmental indicators, such as exposure to air pollution (particles suspended PM10 and PM2.5, and nitrogen dioxide, NO2), traffic noise; as well as the proximity to natural spaces, public transport, facilities or pedestrian zones.
As in other studies carried out to date, the results were heterogeneous. On the one hand, in Bradford and Valencia pregnant women with a low socioeconomic level lived more exposed to environmental risks. In contrast, in Sabadell and in Oslo it was the upper class women who lived in a less healthy environment.
“This study allowed us to observe differences associated with socio-economic position in various cities,” commented Oliver Robinson, researcher at Imperial College London and lead author of the study.
“This does not necessarily mean that more deprived women are always exposed to higher levels of hazards. Depending on the city you’re looking at, the association can go one way or the other. However, in a number of cities, deprivation is associated with simultaneous exposure to higher levels of multiple hazards associated with city living. Our study focused on pregnant women and these situations could contribute to the inequalities in health that we observe in the paediatric population,” adds Robinson.
ISGlobal researcher Xavier Basagaña, coordinator of the study, concluded: “These findings are important for local authorities and urban planners, who need to understand the nature of the environmental inequities in their cities so that they can remedy them and work towards reducing health inequities.”