Effect of air pollution on pregnancy outcome

Environmental pollution can be described as the introduction of substances or different forms of energy into the environment at higher rate than it can be removed. There are various kinds of environmental pollution with land, sea, water and air being the major types (National Geographic 2022). These pose a negative impact on human health, environment and wildlife.

Air pollution is dangerous to human health as it has been linked with fetal diseases such as lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory infections both in developed and developing countries (March of Dimes 2018).

Air pollution has also been linked to negative pregnancy outcomes as it has been associated with a number of birth defects. In recent times, research has revealed that maternal exposure to different air pollutants show a close relationship with adverse pregnancy outcomes because of the sensitivity of the organogenesis process in foetuses (Sram et al. 2005). In another recent study, air pollution has been revealed to have an association with Stillbirth (Siddika et al. 2016). Here, we discuss the influence of air pollution on pregnancy outcomes in Finland.

[Alt text: a drawing describes factors causing pollution. They are: industry and energy supply, agricultural practices, dust, transport, waste management and household energy.]
Image 1. Air pollution consists of several sources. (World Meteorological Organization 2018)

Air pollution and low birth weight in Finland

There is a general knowledge about the negative impact of air pollution on fetal growth (for example low birth weight). However, the knowledge of how cold climate and specific seasons of the year influence the outcome has received less attention. According to Balogun et al. (2020) pregnant women exposed to either carbon dioxide or ozone in the spring-summer season are at a risk of new-born low birth weight. All round joint exposure to carbon dioxide and ozone also results in the risk of low birth weight. Exposure to particulate matter in spring-summer season or joint exposure to particulate matter and ozone also results in low birth weight.

The role of a registered nurse  

Health care professionals must be educated on the degree of pollution in their immediate environment in order to rightly inform pregnant women on measures to prevent overexposure to these pollutants. Registered nurses should duly educate pregnant women and their family on the dangers of exposure to air pollutants and smoking. Client education should also be part of nursing education, especially concerning air pollution, which remains still quite novel theme in Finnish nursing education. New knowledge concerning air pollutions’ health effects could also enhance nursing students’ environmental thinking.


Hamudat Balogun is a graduate nursing student in LAB university of Applied Sciences.

Emilia Laapio-Rapi works as principal lecturer in faculty of Social and Health care in LAB university of Applied Sciences.


Balogun, H. A., Rantala, A., Antikainen, H., Siddika, N., Amegah, A. K., Ryti, N. R. I., Kukkonen, J., Sofiev, M., Jaakkola, M. S. & Jaakkola, J. J. K. 2020. Effects of Air Pollution on the Risk of Low Birth Weight in a Cold Climate. Applied. ScienceVol.10, 6399. Cited 2 Sep 2022. Available at http://doi.org/10.3390/app10186399

March of Dimes. 2018. Air Pollution. Cited 2 Sep 2022. Available at https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/air-pollution.aspx#:~:text=Exposure%20to%20air%20pollution%20during,than%205%20pounds%2C%208%20ounces

National Georaphic. 2022. Air Pollution. Cited 2 Sep 2022. Available at https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/pollution.

Siddika, N., Balogun, H. A., Amegah, A. K. & Jaakkola, J. J. K. (2016). Prenatal ambient air pollution exposure and the risk of stillbirth: systematic review and meta-analysis of the empirical evidence. Occupational and environmental medicine, 73(9), 573–581. Cited 2 Sep 2022. Available at https://doi.org/10.1136/oemed-2015-103086

Šrám, R. J., Binková, B., Dejmek, J. & Bobak, M. 2005. Ambient Air Pollution and Pregnancy Outcomes: A Review of the Literature. Environmental Health Perspectives Vol. 113, 4. Cited 2 Sep 2022. Available at https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.6362

World Meteorological Organization. 2018. What are the sources of air pollution? Cited 21 Nov 2022. Available at https://public.wmo.int/en/media/news/wmo-joins-global-commitment-cut-air-pollution