Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Even a little air pollution may have long-term health effects on developing fetus

Public Release: 27-Apr-2016
Study: Even a little air pollution may have long-term health effects on developing fetus
Researchers find biological evidence linking air pollution to intrauterine inflammation, a condition associated with adverse pregnancy and child outcomes
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Even small amounts of air pollution appear to raise the risk of a condition in pregnant women linked to premature births and lifelong neurological and respiratory disorders in their children, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research suggests.

Fine particles from car exhaust, power plants and other industrial sources are breathed into the lungs, but the scientists have now found evidence of the effects of that pollution in the pregnant women's placentas, the organ that connects her to her fetus and provides blood, oxygen and nutrition. They found that the greater the maternal exposure to air pollution, the more likely the pregnant women suffered from a condition called intrauterine inflammation, which can increase the risk of a number of health problems for her child from the fetal stage well into childhood.

The researchers, reporting online April 27 in Environmental Health Perspectives, say the findings add to the growing evidence that the air a pregnant woman breathes could have long-term health consequences for her child and that current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air pollution standards may not be stringent enough to protect her developing fetus.


The researchers found that pregnant women who were exposed to the highest levels of air pollution were nearly twice as likely as those exposed to the lowest levels to have intrauterine inflammation and it appeared that the first trimester might be a time of highest risk. These results held up even when researchers accounted for factors including smoking, age, obesity and education levels.

Intrauterine inflammation is one of the leading causes of premature birth, which occurs in one of every nine births in the United States and one in six African-American births, the researchers say. Babies born prematurely can have lifelong developmental problems. Researchers have linked preterm birth to both autism and asthma.


the researchers say that the placenta - which is typically discarded after birth - offered vital clues to the condition and could be the source of other important health information.

"The placenta may be a window into what is going on in terms of early life exposure and what it means for future health problems," Wang says. "This organ is discarded, but testing it is non-invasive and could be a valuable source of all kinds of environmental information."

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