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Truth Behind the Headlines: Early exposure to air pollution linked with higher blood pressure

Babies exposed to air pollution, particularly during the first two terms of pregnancy, may end up with higher blood pressure as a child, finds a new study. The researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health believe that one in every five children lives in an urban environment that exposes them to environmental factors, including higher levels of air pollution, associated with blood pressure values higher than those observed in children not exposed to these environmental factors. 


This is important as they explain high blood pressure is a chief risk factor for cardiovascular disease, a condition which is currently the leading cause of death worldwide. 


The authors want to call attention to the importance of designing cities that promote healthy environments.

Using our recommended five tips, Global Action Plan reviewed the study:


Questions to ask to get to the truth Our response
1. Does the article refer to a report to back up its claims?

The article refers to a study published in Environment International Urban environment during early-life and blood pressure in young children. 

2. Who is behind the study it refers to?

The study was run by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, an alliance between the "la Caixa" Foundation, academic institutions and government bodies to contribute to the efforts undertaken by the international community to address challenges in global health.  

3. How fantastical and radical is the claim that is being made?

The team assessed multiple aspects of the children's environment – including the built environment, natural spaces, traffic, air pollution, noise, climate and level of social and economic hardship. They did this initially, during the prenatal period, the place of residence of the mothers during their pregnancy, and subsequently the homes of the children after birth.  


The researchers assessed the children's blood pressure when they were between four and five years of age to understand the long-term effect of the exposures. 


4. What geographical region does the claim refer to?

The children studied were living in one of six European cities – Bradford in the UK, Poitiers and Nancy in France, Sabadell and Valencia in Spain and Heraklion in Greece.  Though the results apply to children worldwide.

5. What is the sample size of the study?

The research team analysed data from 4,279 children aged between four to five years old. 


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