Air pollution and pregnancy

It’s common knowledge that pregnant women need to have a nutritious diet, but what about the air they breathe?
New research suggests that air pollution, both indoor and outdoor, can have an effect on prenatal health.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, researchers in London studied the relationship between expectant mothers’ exposure to air pollution, as well as traffic noise, and the birth weight of their babies. Their conclusion: The risk of low birth weight increased significantly for mothers exposed to more air pollution.

Low birthweight is tied to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and hypertension when infants grow up. Plus, other studies have shown air pollution to be a predictor of pre-term birth, as well as babies born with autism or who develop asthma later in life, and fertility problems in men and women.

The study assessed the level of airborne particles that enter the lungs, throughout a variety of London neighborhoods between 2006 to 2010, and compared those findings to the birth weights of more than 540,000 babies. Researchers learned that the risk of low birth weight increased by 15 percent for every 5 micrograms per cubic meter increase in air particles.

Another study conducted in Beijing, noted for its poor air quality, also connected pollution to low birth weights. Researchers studied pregnant women during the two months of the 2008 Olympics when government mandates required emissions to be lowered. The findings: Women in their eighth month of pregnancy during that time delivered babies who were 0.8 ounces heavier than women who gave birth the year before.

The steps pregnant women need to take to protect themselves and their babies from indoor air pollution may be even more important than those aimed at outdoor contaminants. That’s because Americans spend 90 percent of their lives indoors, according to the EPA. For one thing, remember that whenever you cook or take part in other activities, like painting or even using hair spray, you introduce contaminants into your household. With that in mind, use a vent hood when cooking, check for mold and install carbon monoxide detectors. Also, air purifiers with an advanced particle filter like the Coway Airmega can help mother and baby breathe both easier and healthier.