Environment

Air and water pollutants influence the sex ratio of babies

Air and water pollutants influence the sex ratio of babies and according to a new study this could have long-term consequences.

The presence of air and water pollutants affects the human sex ratio at birth; some increase the ratio of boys at birth, while others decrease it. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates there are around 105 males per 100 female births for most countries, although it can slightly vary from around 103 to 107 boys per 100 girls. 

The sex ratio at conception is equal. However, female mortality is slightly higher than male over the course of a pregnancy.

Andrey Rzhetsky from the University of Chicago explored to understand the factors that influence sex ratio at birth. 

Previous studies have found that changes in weather, stress, and pollutants could influence the ratio.

“The issue of sex ratio at birth is surrounded with legends, conjectures, and small-sample trend observations,” Rzhetsky said. 

“Variation at birth occurs through the death of embryos, for some reason biased towards one of the sexes. If the causes can be established, the findings can have profound health implications.”

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“We decided to test a collection of past claims plus a number of new associations with the environment using a very large cohort, effectively over half of US population,” Rzhetsky said. 

“We found a number of associations between sex ratio at birth change and individual pollutants. Ideally, these associations will be studied in animal models.”

The findings showed that the sex ratio at birth wasn’t affected by seasons, ambient temperature, violent crime rates, unemployment rates, or commute times. 

However, there were a set of pollutants that affected the sex ratio, some increasing the ratio of boys and others decreasing it – such as iron, lead, mercury, aluminum, and carbon dioxide.

Air pollution is one of the most significant environmental problems across the world. According to the World Health Organization, the average global citizen is estimated to lose 2.2 years of life with the current levels of air pollution.

The study was published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology.

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