Exposure to pollution has changed the ratio of baby boys and girls to millions of parents in the United States and Sweden, according to new research.

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The study, conducted by a team at the University of Chicago and Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, looked at half of the US population and the entire Swedish population. They found that over 100 possible factors could be linked to the changing ratio of the sex of babies. This is the first systematic investigation of numerous chemical pollutants and other environmental factors using large datasets from two continents, according to the researchers.

They found that mercury, chromium, and aluminum pollution could be linked to more baby boys, and exposure to lead pollution was linked with an increased number of baby girls. Other factors they found included stress levels of parents, poverty, crime, unemployment in the area, and weather temperatures.

Interestingly, they found that how close a family lived to a farm also played a role in the sex of babies. This is possibly due to the higher level of exposure to chemicals and emissions from agriculture and livestock agriculture.

The study was published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology, and the data was taken from the American population for over eight years and the Swedish population for over 30 years.

The human sex ratio at birth is determined at conception when half of the embryos should be male, and half should be female. Although experts already knew that hormonal factors could make one of these numbers higher, this study now proves just another way that pollution is harming our bodies and public health.

Air and waterborne pollutants were found to affect the sex outcome with influential air pollutants including iron, lead, mercury, carbon monoxide, aluminum, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Water pollutants included chromium and arsenic.

“There are a lot of myths about sex ratio and birth, but when you dig into the research, it turns out that everything that was tested on real data was done on relatively small samples, and some statements are not founded in observations at all,” lead researcher, Andrey Rzhetsky, told the Guardian.

The factors that had the most impact, like mercury and proximity to industrial plants, saw a ratio shift by up to three percent. While this number may sound low, this means that in a population of 1 million, there could be 60,000 more boys than girls or vice versa.

Air pollution is an invisible killer and has been linked to so many diseases, including fatty liver disease, depression, and other mental health issues, and a study even found that nearly 6 million babies born prematurely in 2019 were likely linked to air pollution. Eating meat has been linked to a rise in air pollution, and factory farms are one of the biggest to blame for our dirty air. According to the WHO, an estimated 4.2 million people every year are killed from outdoor air pollution, and 99 percent of the global population breathes air that exceeds WHO guideline limits, with low and middle-income areas disproportionately affected. Check out these eco-artists that are using their art to call attention to the massive problem of air pollution and sign the petition to demand federal clean-up of disproportionately affected polluted areas in the United States.

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