Once again air pollution is linked to health problems, this time exposure during pregnancy is linked to congenital malformations (what are commonly called birth defects). From Science Daily:
The health effects of air pollution are a major concern for urban populations all over the world. A new study provides new evidence linking high exposure to air pollution to an increased risk of congenital malformations. Children, the elderly, and people with impaired respiratory systems (such as asthmatics) tend to be especially sensitive to the impact of exposure to ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and particulate matter.
A recent study by Tel Aviv University researchers provides new evidence linking high exposure to air pollution to an increased risk of congenital malformations. The nationwide study is the first to assess the association between different modes of conception-assisted reproductive technology (ART) versus spontaneous conception (SC) -- and the risks of exposure to air pollution to each.
"Our results suggest that exposure to higher levels of air pollution during pregnancy is associated with various adverse pregnancy outcomes," said Prof. Lerner-Geva. "While our study mainly followed SC infants, we also had the opportunity to assess a small sample of pregnancies that were conceived through ART, and observed a higher impact of air pollution -- particularly with regard to ozone exposure. This is clearly a uniquely susceptible population that should be further explored."
For the study, funded by the Environmental Health Fund (EHF), the research team analyzed data on 216,730 born in Israel between 1997 and 2004. Air pollution data, including, levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2), particulate matter (PM10), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and ozone (O3) were obtained from air monitoring stations for the study period. Using a geographic information system, exposure to air pollution during both the first trimester and the entire pregnancy was assessed for each woman according to her place of residence.
The researchers found that exposure to PM10 and NOX pollutants throughout full-term pregnancies were associated with an increased risk of congenital malformations, with specific defects evident in the circulatory system (from PM10 and NOX exposure) and genital organs (from NOX exposure). They also discovered that exposure to SO2 and O3 in ART pregnancies were associated, although not significantly, with a higher risk of congenital defects.