Living in a city makes you fat, infertile, depressed

Last Updated: Nov 22, 2011, 08:50 AM IST

London: Babies born in cities face a number of health problems, as more and more people are shunning pastoral life to stay in urban centres.

In 1900, only 14 percent of the global population lived in cities. In 2008 that figure leaped to 50 percent. By 2050, the United Nations predicts that 70 percent of people will be urbanites.

City-slickers, compared with their rural counterparts, are wealthier and have better job prospects. They enjoy bountiful food, superior healthcare and cleaner sanitation.

But healthwise, they are exposed to mental illness, immune diseases, arthritis, heart disease, cancer and fertility problems. Daily exposure to pollution can set us up for a lifetime of ill-health. And as cities become ever more crowded, these problems are only going to get worse.

The latest studies indicate that daily exposure to urban pollution can affect us before we are even born - leaving us prone to a lifetime of ill-health, the Daily Mail reports.

Scientists have discovered that babies born in cities are bigger and heavier - normally a good sign - than those born in the countryside.

But when they compared the placentas of mothers from a busy city and a quiet rural district, they found that the city mums had far higher levels of chemical pollutants called xenoestrogens in their blood - and in that of their unborn babies.

Xenoestrogens are industrial chemicals that affect our bodies in similar ways to the female hormone, oestrogen.They are found in petrol fumes and are more abundant in industrial areas than the countryside.

As well as causing excess foetal growth, they have been linked to problems such as obesity, hyperactivity, early puberty, fertility problems and cancers of the lung, breast and prostate.

The researchers, from the University of Granada, Spain, found that although city mothers were older and weighed less than rural mothers, they still gave birth to larger babies.

Maria Marcos, who led the study, says the toxic xenoestrogens seem to have a significant effect on the development of unborn children. Her report provides the latest evidence that city air can seriously hinder normal childhood development.

IANS