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Stockholm breathes deeply

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Giving birth in Stockholm these days has women in stitches. Literally. One in five births in the capital is now carried out by Caesarian section, which is higher than anywhere else in the country. But Stockholm ladies opting for a natural birth might want to give the heavy breathing a miss - they could inhale something unpleasant.

A survey carried out by Stockholm County Council showed that the number of women having caesarians has grown substantially since 1995, Friday's DN reported. And the survey appeared to confirm the old adage about some women being 'too posh to push': the report noted that a large proportion of c-sections were carried out at women's request and without medical reason.

The survey also revealed that women are giving birth at an increasingly advanced age. Thirty-seven was the average age for women in many parts of central Stockholm to be dropping their first sprog, and many of these women were labouring under the impression that a caesarian would be a kinder cut than giving birth naturally. But Lennart Nordström at the Karolinska University Hospital said that this was not always true.

"Caesarians often bring a higher risk of infection for the woman, and children born by c-section often have breathing difficulties," he told DN.

It's not just new-born children in Stockholm suffering from breathing difficulties. Schools in Stockholm have been criticized by the Swedish Work Environment Authority for not providing their pupils with good enough air. Apparently, Swedish pupils are entitled to a certain level of air quality, and ventilation systems in the capital's schools are simply not up to snuff.

Stockholm City Council's failure to make clean air for its pupils a higher priority has not impressed the powers-that-be. "It's six years since we first told them about this problem, and they still haven't started working on it," an exasperated official told DN.

With all the fuss, you might think that Stockholm's children were choking in Dickensian misery. And Monday's Svenska Dagbladet did nothing to dispel this impression. For despite its appearance as a green and pleasant capital, the city is failing to meet the EU's clean air targets. And getting the blame are the luxury cruise ships that visit central Stockholm every summer. While the ships' passengers undoubtedly bring in tourist cash - over 200 million crowns every summer - the boats account for twenty percent of Stockholm's sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions.

One of the problems, the paper reported, was that the ships run their motors even while they are docked, in order to provide electricity for things like air conditioning. Fresh, cool air for tourists, smoky air for Stockholmers.

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