A study published by the British Medical Journal found that air pollution from road traffic is putting the health of unborn babies at risk and is linked to low birth weight.

A team led by the Imperial College London carried out the research in London but stressed the findings can be applied to other cities in the UK and further afield in Europe. They also stressed that environmental health policies aimed at reducing road traffic could reduce the burden of low birth weight, small for gestational age and subsequent lifelong morbidity.

The Researchers used national registers to study more than 540,000 births in Greater London between 2006 and 2010 and estimated average monthly concentrations of traffic-related pollutants mother’s home address at the time of birth.

They found they found the risk of a low birth weight increased by between two and six per cent for in area associated with higher traffic-related air pollutants. There was also a one to three per cent increase in the odds of the baby being small for gestational age.

The study authors concluded: “The findings suggest that air pollution from road traffic in London is adversely affecting foetal growth”.

The study also found no evidence that exposure to road traffic noise was linked to birth weight but the authors said they “cannot rule out that an association might be observed in a study area with a wider range of noise exposures”.