The Sydney Morning Herald:

Women who live near freeways and highways are more likely to give birth prematurely, new research suggests.

The link between the concentration of major road routes around a woman’s home and early birth is revealed in a study of 970 mothers and their newborn babies in Logan City, south of Brisbane.

The more freeways and highways around a pregnant woman’s home, the higher the likelihood of an early delivery, says Associate Professor Adrian Barnett, from the Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation.

“The most striking result was the reduction in gestation time of 4.4 per cent – or almost two weeks – associated with an increase in freeways within 400 metres of the women’s home,” he said.

Prof Barnett has previously published a study that found a strong association between increased air pollution and small foetus size.

“Although the increased risks are relatively small, the public health implications are large because everyone living in an urban area gets exposed to air pollution,” he said.

“Pre-term and low-birth weight babies stay in hospital longer after birth, have an increased risk of death and are more likely to develop disabilities.”