Some Cases of Obesity Linked to Urban Air Pollution

Thursday, May 03, 2012
Bad air may contribute to cases of obesity for some inner-city residents of New York City.
Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health studied more than 700 pregnant women and found those exposed to higher concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were more than twice as likely to have obese children by age seven compared with women with lower levels of exposure.
PAHs are commonly found in cities as a result of burning coal, diesel, oil, gas and even tobacco. However the researchers ruled out household cigarette smoking and proximity to roads with heavy traffic as factors in the impact of PAHs.
The study’s lead author, Andrew G. Rundle, professor of epidemiology at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, said obesity is not the result of just diet and exercise. “For many people who don’t have the resources to buy healthy food or don’t have the time to exercise, prenatal exposure to air pollution may tip the scales, making them even more susceptible to obesity,” he said.
Dr. Rundle praised New York City officials for eliminating diesel buses and retrofitting oil furnaces to burn cleaner fuel.
The women examined in the study were either African-American or Dominican, and lived in low-income areas of Northern Manhattan or the South Bronx.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:
The Obesity-Hunger Paradox (by Sam Dolnick, New York Times)

Obesity in the South Bronx: A Look Across Generations (Bronx District Public Health Office) (pdf) 


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