Friday March 22, 2019

Researchers find benefits of clean air on fetal growth

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Women breathing high levels of pollution during the last month of pregnancy are more likely to give birth to babies with significantly lower weight as compared to an unexposed woman. A study of the effects of the air-quality controls, introduced during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, brings out the revelation.

Scientists involved in the study said that the temporary pollution regulations imposed on Beijing during 2008 Olympics had a measurable and positive effects on the weight of babies born to mothers who were 8-months pregnant at that time.

It is the first time when a study is able to indicate the harmful effects of air pollution on development of fetus in the womb while specifying the importance of clean air for fetal growth.

During 2008 Olympics, the Chinese government had imposed stringent curbs on vehicles and industry to minimize the impact of city’s high levels of air pollution on competing athletes. It was during this time when almost 84,000 births to mothers living in four urban districts of Beijing before, during and after the 2008 Olympics, were analyzed.

The study found that women who were in the eighth month of their pregnancy benefited most from the significantly “cleaner” air in the Chinese capital. The babies born to them were on average 23 grams heavier than the babies born to similar women in 2007 and 2009, when air pollution controls were not as severe.

David Rich, an epidemiologist at the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York, and lead author of the study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, said, “This is the first study to show that when air pollution levels go down during the 8th month of pregnancy, we see an increase in birth weight.”

Just before the Olympics, the Chinese government took many steps to bring down the high pollution level in the capital. They prohibited traffic, closed factories and even seeded clouds to make it rain. These measures together led to 60% reduction in sulfur dioxide, 48% reduction in carbon monoxide, 43% reduction in nitrogen dioxide and a reduction in the number of particles in the air smaller than 2.5 microns, which have the capability to enter the blood stream through the lungs.

“The results of this study demonstrate a clear association between changes in air pollutant concentrations and birth weight. These findings not only illustrate one of the many significant health consequences of pollution, but also demonstrate that this phenomenon can be reversed,” said Dr. Rich.

“While Beijing’s pollution is particularly noteworthy, many of the world’s other cities face similar air-quality problems. This study shows that pollution controls – even short-term ones – can have positive public health benefits,” said Junfeng Zhang, a researcher at Duke University in North Carolina, who led the study.

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U.S. Tariffs on China Could Remain Same, Even After Reaching The Trade Deal

Tariffs on imported automobiles — as are being contemplated by the White House — "would be counterproductive, like we have seen with steel tariffs," said Srinivasan, who was part of former President Barack Obama's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership task force.

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Trade Deal
Shipping containers, including one labeled "China Shipping," are stacked at the Paul W. Conley Container Terminal in Boston, Mass., May 9, 2018. VOA

U.S. tariffs on China are likely to remain in place for a while, even if a trade deal is reached, President Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday.

“The deal is coming along nicely,” the president said about the trade talks with Beijing, noting U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would be heading to China within days to continue discussions.

“We’re taking in billions and billions of dollars right now in tariff money, and for a period of time that will stay,” Trump said.

The president’s remarks indicated that Washington’s tariffs could stay in place until U.S. officials are convinced the Chinese are adhering to the terms of the agreement.

“They’ve had a lot of problems living by certain deals,” the president noted on the White House South Lawn just before boarding the Marine One helicopter.

President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs on travel to Ohio from the White House in Washington, March 20, 2019.
President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs on travel to Ohio from the White House in Washington, March 20, 2019. VOA

China might accept a deal in which most of the U.S. tariffs are rolled back, according to Brookings Institution senior fellow David Dollar, but he said he expected President Xi Jinping would not accept any pact in which no tariffs were lifted.

“It’s very hard for the Chinese president to agree to a deal that’s so clearly asymmetric. Chinese people are so active on the internet and social media, and President Xi will hear about it from the people if he makes a deal that looks bad for China,” Dollar told VOA.

Tit-for-tat tariffs imposed last year ignited fears of a trade war between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies, which annually trade more than a half-trillion dollars’ worth of goods.

The value of Chinese products sold in the United States far outweighs the value of those sent to China, and that deficit alone represents about 80 percent of America’s overall trade gap in goods.

A pillar of the Trump presidency has been reducing that huge gap by negotiating bilateral trade deals and rebuilding the U.S. manufacturing base.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with supporters as he arrives at Allen County Airport, March 20, 2019, in Lima, Ohio.
President Donald Trump shakes hands with supporters as he arrives at Allen County Airport, March 20, 2019, in Lima, Ohio. VOA

Trump traveled Wednesday to an area in Ohio where General Motors is set to shutter a car assembly plant, affecting about 1,500 jobs and undercutting the president’s manufacturing revival message.

“What’s going on with General Motors?” Trump asked during a speech. “Get that plant open or sell it to somebody and they’ll open it. Everybody wants it.”

“Intervening to try to keep one factory open isn’t going to do much for the economy” at a time when manufacturing is declining as a share of the overall job market, said Dollar, of the Brookings Institution. “It’s a bad precedent for politicians to intervene like that.”

A resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Claude Barfield, agrees presidents should not intervene in individual corporate decisions.

“The president is woefully ignorant about trade and this part of the economy. He thinks it does help. I don’t think it does at all help,” Barfield, a former consultant to the office of the U.S. trade representative, told VOA.

The closure of the GM plant in Lordstown, according to a Cleveland State University study, will result in a total loss of 7,700 jobs in the region, including supply chain and consumer services employment tied to the auto plant, cutting 10 percent of the gross regional product in the greater Youngstown area.

Trump, in his remarks on Wednesday, placed some of the blame on the United Auto Workers, the union representing the GM workers.

“Your union leaders aren’t on our side,” Trump declared. “They could have kept General Motors” operating the Lordstown plant.

FILE - Employees watch as the last Chevrolet Cruze rolls off the assembly line at the General Motors Co. assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, March 6, 2019, in this photo obtained from social media.
Employees watch as the last Chevrolet Cruze rolls off the assembly line at the General Motors Co. assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, March 6, 2019, in this photo obtained from social media. VOA

Trump spoke at a facility in Lima that makes the M1 Abrams tank for the U.S. Army, about 300 kilometers from the idled auto factory.

“You better love me. I kept this place open,” Trump told workers at the General Dynamics facility, which was nearly closed six years ago after Army officials told Congress they did not need the additional tanks.

Workers listen as President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the Lima Army Tank Plant, March 20, 2019, in Lima, Ohio.
Workers listen as President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the Lima Army Tank Plant, March 20, 2019, in Lima, Ohio. VOA

Ohio, which Trump won in the 2016 election by 8 percentage points, again will be a key battleground state in next year’s presidential election.

Polls in the Buckeye State, where the president relies on a strong base of working-class voters, show his approval rating slipping.

Trade and tariffs are “not even the core issue about retaining the manufacturing jobs in this region,” University of Akron associate professor Mahesh Srinivasan, who is director of the school’s Institute of Global Business, told VOA.

Srinivasan said the focus by the Trump administration should not be so much on trade agreements as on “the inevitable march of automation and technology that has displaced workers from traditional jobs. The need of the hour is doubling down with even more emphasis on worker training and education to prepare the workforce for tomorrow’s jobs.”

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Tariffs on imported automobiles — as are being contemplated by the White House — “would be counterproductive, like we have seen with steel tariffs,” said Srinivasan, who was part of former President Barack Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership task force. “It could attract retaliatory tariffs that will negatively impact numerous automobile manufacturers in Ohio and other Midwestern states, which today are supplying to automobile manufacturers globally.”

Some trade analysts agree that Trump’s metals tariffs on Canada and Mexico have hurt American manufacturing, including making U.S. auto plants less competitive. (VOA)