Most-polluted places in California see highest infant mortality rates

The results of a San Francisco Chronicle analysis of infant morality rates in California zip codes are, while depressing as hell, not surprising: In short, pollution kills babies. Agricultural waste, toxic chemicals, smog — while these sources of pollution are difficult to link to any single infant death, and their interaction is not well understood, it is clear that areas with high pollution levels have dramatically higher rates of infant mortality (death before the age of one). Rural zip codes in California’s highly polluted Central Valley see infant mortality rates among Hispanics — whose rates nationally are generally lower than those of whites — almost twice the state average. According to the World Health Organization’s 2002 rankings, the U.S. ranks 36th out of 196 countries for high infant mortality. Decades-long efforts to reduce that rate have largely focused on better medical care, but a growing body of research suggests that pollution, particularly air quality, deserves attention too.