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Urban air and noise pollution in sub-Saharan Africa: A study of prenatal exposures, birth outcomes, and sleep disturbances in infants

Principal Investigator: 

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

This New Investigator Award study seeks to examine associations of long-term maternal exposures to PM2.5, NO2, and environmental noise with adverse birth outcomes in Accra, Ghana. The investigators also seek to determine the effect of these exposures on the risk of lower respiratory infections in infants.

Funded under

Poster abstract for HEI Annual Conference 2022

Urban air and noise pollution in sub-Saharan Africa: A study of prenatal exposures, birth outcomes and sleep disturbances in infants

Raphael E. Arku

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Urban growth in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is largely unplanned and marked by significant environmental pollution. The few measurement studies in the region show that air and noise pollution, which come from diverse sources, are now a major growing public health concern in cities. Yet, there is little data on the health impacts of urban air and noise pollution in the SSA setting to support policy and behavioral decisions, particularly with regards to child survival and development. Lack of data in this population represents a major gap in our knowledge and a barrier to the formulation and evaluation of policies to reduce environmental exposures in the region.

This research aims to fill this gap by quantifying the effects of long-term maternal and early prenatal exposures to PM2.5, NO2, and environmental noise pollution on preterm birth, term birthweight and low birthweight, and on respiratory infections in infants in Accra, Ghana. The study will recruit and follow ~1,500 pregnant women in the first trimester at antenatal care clinic of the six major polyclinics in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area. Exposure metrics will be assigned using space-time land use regression (LUR) models the PI’s team developed specifically for Accra.

The emphasis here is on providing locally sound and globally relevant data on prenatal and early postnatal exposures and child survival and developmental outcomes in the SSA context, where exposures are high and vary widely, but with little epidemiologic data. This work builds on our ongoing study, collecting large-scale field data on PM2.5, NOx, sound, and weather variables in Accra.

As urbanization in SSA continues at pace, local data on exposure and health effects of air and noise pollution, and the role of socioeconomic factors, are urgently needed to enable behavioral and local policy efforts to be evidence-based, designing interventions to protect population health, especially children who are among the most vulnerable.