Marcia G. Yerman

Marcia G. Yerman
New York, New York, USA
February 10
Marcia G. Yerman is based in New York City. Her writings – profiles, interviews, essays, and articles – focus on women’s issues, the environment, politics, culture and the arts, and can be found at She has been published by The New York Times, Women News Network, AlterNet, RH Reality Check, AlterNet, The Raw Story, and the Women's Media Center. She also writes for Moms Clean Air Force, a site bringing visibility to the issue of clean air and environmental concerns. Yerman was a co-founder of cultureID, an online platform that was dedicated to the nexus of culture and activism.


Marcia G. Yerman's Links
FEBRUARY 9, 2013 7:54PM

Study Shows Maternal Exposure to Air Pollution Correlates to

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As the Environmental Protection Agency awaits an announcement from President Obama on his choice for their new leader, the public should brace itself for a contentious road to a confirmation. The hearings are sure to bring out the anti-regulation, science doubters who disbelieve the efficacy of protecting the nation’s air, water, and other natural resources.

Hopefully, before they prepare their queries, they will have read the results from a study published on February 6, 2013 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It posits, “Maternal exposure to outdoor air pollution is associated with low birth weight.” To date, it stands as the most comprehensive examination on the matter that has been undertaken. Data was gathered and analyzed from over three million births at fourteen sites in Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and North America.

To learn more, I interviewed the co-principal investigator on the study, Tracey J. Woodruff, PhD, by telephone. She explained how the International Collaboration on Air Pollution and Pregnancy Outcomes (ICAPPO) was founded in 2007 to study both the interrelationship between air pollution and pregnancy outcomes, and to “work with researchers around the world to establish a common format for aggregating data.”

The findings are compelling. The higher the pollution level, the greater the rate of low birth babies.

What is low birth weight and why is it important? A full term infant delivered at below 5.5 pounds is considered to be low birth weight, and therefore at risk for potentially critical health consequences during the first twelve months of life. During childhood, there is a greater possibility for developmental delays. In adult life, cardiovascular concerns as well as metabolic disorders, such as diabetes, may occur.

How is a pregnant woman exposed to particulate air pollution at risk? It can be directly through her health, as in how the heart, lungs, and respiratory system are impacted by the pollution. Adverse effects can also travel via her blood stream to the developing fetus, making it susceptible to “congenital anomalies.”

Describing what constitutes particulate matter in the air, Woodruff described “microscopic particles” that are more minuscule than the “width of a human hair.” These particles are in the air we breathe. They are by-products of what Woodruff termed “combustion sources.” This includes fossil fuel exhaust from cars and buses, emissions from coal-fired power plants, the burning of oil for home heating and factories, and trash incinerators.

I asked Woodruff about the common argument put forth by those opposing clean air laws—the concern for jobs and the economy. Woodruff was unequivocal in her response. “The health benefits outweigh the costs,” she told me, underscoring the dollars that are lost to hospital expenditures and medical bills. (It has been pointed out in conversations on the budget quandary, that exploding health care fees account for a large percentage of the deficit.)

The data used was collected during the mid-1990s through the late-2000s. Woodruff pointed to the fact that “nations with tighter regulations on particulate air pollution have lower levels of these air pollutants.” As a matter of comparison, a look at particulate air pollution (which is measured in size and weight) shows that in America, the annual average concentration in the air is required by federal standards to be no greater than 12 micrograms per cubic meter. However, the European Union is sustaining 25 micrograms per cubic meter. Now, the European Union is deliberating upon whether to make the guidelines more stringent.

The extreme is the particulate air pollution in Beijing, China, which was recently found to be at 700 micrograms per cubic meter.

A co-author of the paper, Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, PhD, who is affiliated with the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology, commented on the situation in China. He said, “From the perspective of world health, levels like this are obviously completely unsustainable.”

Perhaps even more importantly, Nieuwenhuijsen emphasized the idea, “This study comes at the right time to bring the issue to the attention of policy makers.”

We owe it to our future citizens to make certain that this suggestion doesn’t fall upon deaf ears.

This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force


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I just wish that the huge difference between people like you and policy makers diminishes even a little. Excellent and relevant piece...again. R
Yet another example of corporations externalizing their costs to the rest of us. I have spent most of my professional career working with developmentally disabled children and adults who started out as low birth weight babies. The children themselves aren't the only ones bearing the cost of this. They are rarely capable of sustaining competitive employment, which means the taxpayer picks up the cost of looking after them.
Sorting through rare articles from the commercial media is enough to confirm your conclusions that pollution costs much more than acknowledged by the commercial press.

FWIW I clicked on all your links even though I clearly don't have time to read them right away. most if not all of them seem to have a significant scientific values although it takes time to know for certain.

The point of this observation is that I practically never see this in the traditional commercial media that repeats and enormous amount of hype over and over again and unless you look closely you might not notice just how often they contradict themselves or change their story without acknowledgement.

It takes time to sort these things out but but I'll book mark what looks like the best of your links and try to find some of that time.

I already know the government and the traditional media is useless.

[r] you write important things, Marcia, thank you!!!! consciousness-raising for environmental health, it's time is here. It has to be!!!!! best, libby