quotes a report from TIME: Air pollution leads to 16,000 premature births in the United States each year, leading to billions of dollars in economic costs, according to new research. Researchers behind the study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that preterm births associated with particulate matter -- a type of pollutant -- led to more than $4 billion in economic costs in 2010 due to medical care and lost productivity that results from disability. And, like many other public health issues, affected populations tend to be concentrated in low-income areas home to large numbers of minorities. "This is another piece of the evidentiary pie about why we should really be doing something about air pollution," says Tracey Woodruff, a professor who studies reproductive health and the environment at the University of California, San Francisco. "When you reduce air pollution you get lots of different health benefits." Countless studies have shown the effect of air pollution on cardiovascular and respiratory health -- killing millions each year. Air pollution leads to inflammation in blood vessels and contributes to lung cancer, asthma and a slew of other disorders. The effect on pregnancy may in some ways be an extension of those effects as air pollution disrupts the way a pregnant woman delivers oxygen to the fetus. Air pollution may also disrupt the endocrine system, keeping women from producing a protein needed to regulate pregnancy, researchers say.