• Sun, Mar 31 2013

Likelihood Of Birth Defects Increased By Air Pollution

birth-defect-air-pollution

Obviously, air pollution is a negative thing that can cause problems for people’s health as well as the environment, but apparently, it’s affecting even those who have not yet been born.

According to a study at Stanford University School of Medicine, published in American Journal of Epidemiology, air pollution may lead to a higher risk of having a child with a birth defect. Researchers studying the San Joaquin Valley in California — the smoggiest place in America — and found that high air pollution levels led to a raised risk of neural tube defects that affect the brain and spine.

The present study included 806 women who had a pregnancy with a birth defect between 1997 and 2006. Researchers examined two types of neural defects, spina bifida, a spinal-column malformation, and anencephaly, an underdeveloped or absent brain, according to a news release from the University. The study also included 849 women whose babies had no such complications.

Researchers then looked at data available for air pollutants around the participants’ home during the study period. Specifically, they assessed the levels of pollutants like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and ozone. They also examined traffic data in the area.

Researchers adjusted for other factors that could have led to birth defects, but still found that exposure to carbon monoxide doubled the chance of a baby being born with spina bifida or anencephal, and being exposed to nitrogen oxide tripled those chances.

While I presently live in a city with only moderate air pollution, I am soon moving to a huge one with a considerable amount and, prior to living where I do, I lived in an area of Southern California where the mountains were only viewable on windy days due to the amount of air pollution. It frightens me to imagine that if I were living there or in New York or Shanghai or any other polluted city and wanted to have a child, my child’s chance of having birth defects would be higher. A study like this leads to many questions in my mind, but none so important as the one I can’t expect anybody to answer for me: what should expectant mothers do if they’re in a place where there’s pollution?

Photo: Shutterstock

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