Researchers have found evidence of an increase in low birth weights among babies born in and around New York City in the weeks and months after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Writing in the journal Human Reproduction , they suggest that stress may have contributed to the effect.
Professor Brenda Eskenazi and colleagues studied data from birth certificates of 1,660,401 babies born in New York between January 1996 and December 2002. They divided the babies into those born in New York City (NYC) whose mothers would, therefore, have been living closest to the disaster zone and those born in upstate New York, which they defined as anyone living outside NYC, including Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties.
When they compared data from babies born in the week before the disaster with those born in the week after in NYC, they found a shift in the distribution of low birth weights (LBW), with a higher proportion of babies being born weighing less than 2,000g. Normal birth weight is considered to be above 2,500g.
Prof Eskenazi said: In New York City in the week after 9/11 we found there was a slightly increased risk (44%) of new-born babies weighing below 1,500g and a 67% increased risk of babies weighing between 1,500g and 1,999g compared with the three weeks before the disaster. There were no statistically significant changes in any LBW category in upstate NY, or in babies being born preterm in either location.
However, there was non-statistically significant evidence that the increase in LBW in the first week after 9/11 was due to babies being born early. Gestational age data were provided to researchers in relatively broad categories which limited a more detailed investigation. In addition, the researchers were hampered by unreliable data on gestational age, based on last reported menstrual period, and the lack of medical reasons for LBW. I think that the measures of gestational age on birth certificates a
|Contact: Emma Mason|
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology