Pregnant mothers at risk from air pollution

October 7, 2011, BioMed Central

A Californian-based study has looked in detail at air quality and the impact of traffic-related air pollution on premature birth. Published in BioMed Central's open access journal Environmental Health, results from this study show that traffic-related air pollution, especially polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), is associated with up to a 30% increase in premature births, and that seasonal changes and vicinity to the coast affected concentration of toxic pollutants in the air.

The study, based at the University of California, looked at 100,000 births, within a five mile radius of air quality monitoring stations. The study evaluated births spanning a 22 month period from June 2004, and used information provided by the California Department of Health about the births and the mothers, in addition to air pollution information from monitoring stations which measure concentrations of airborne .

The researchers were able to analyse and compare exposures using three different information sources: government "criteria pollutant" monitoring stations (including carbon monoxide, , ozone, and fine particulate matter), a model (Land Use Regression), and data about collected by the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Once integrated, these data provided a new level of detail about the concentrations and location of individual pollutants. All statistical models were adjusted for maternal age, race/ethnicity, education and parity.

Some pollutants were area specific, relating to industry and urbanization. However, overall exposure to critical pollutants such as PAH resulted in up to a 30% increase in the risk of premature birth. Other toxic substances, such as benzene and fine particulate matter from diesel fumes were associated with a 10% increase, while ammonium nitrate fine particles were associated with a 21% increase in premature birth. Concentrations of these pollutants were higher in winter and lower in coastal areas, indicating that local weather patterns played an important part in the dispersal of pollutants.

Dr Beate Ritz said, "Air pollution is known to be associated with low birth weight and premature birth. Our results show that traffic-related PAH are of special concern as pollutants, and that PAH sources besides traffic contributed to premature birth. The increase in premature birth risk due to ammonium nitrate particles suggests secondary pollutants are also negatively impacting the health of unborn babies. To reduce the effects of these pollutants on public health, it is important that accurate modeling of local and regional spatial and temporal be incorporated into pollution policies."

Explore further: Prenatal exposure to certain pollutants linked to behavioral problems in young children

More information: Traffic-related air toxics and preterm birth: a population-based case-control study in Los Angeles County, California, Michelle Wilhelm, Jo Kay Ghosh, Jason Su, Myles Cockburn, Michael Jerrett and Beate Ritz, Environmental Health (in press)

Related Stories

Prenatal exposure to certain pollutants linked to behavioral problems in young children

April 12, 2011
Mothers' exposure during pregnancy to pollutants created by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and other organic material may lead to behavioral problems in their children, according to a new study. Researchers found ...

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.