Scientists discovered increased heat was linked to fast weight gain in babies, which increases the risk of obesity in later life. Higher temperatures were also linked to premature birth, which can have lifelong health effects, and to increased hospital admissions of young children.
Other studies found exposure to smoke from wildfires doubled the risk of a severe birth defects, while reduced fertility was linked to air pollution from fossil fuel burning, even at low levels. The studies, published in a special issue of the journal Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, spanned the globe from the US to Denmark, Israel and Australia.
“From the very beginning, from preconception, through early childhood into adolescence, we’re starting to see important impacts of climate hazards on health,” said Prof Gregory Wellenius, who edited the issue with Amelia Wesselink, both at the Boston University school of public health, in the US.
“This is a problem that affects everybody, everywhere. These extreme events are going to become even more likely and more severe with continued climate change [and this research shows] why they’re important to us, not in the future, but today.”