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Outdoor pollution scientifically associated to miscarriages

Short-term exposure to elevated levels of air pollution was linked to a higher risk of spontaneous pregnancy loss. Unsurprisingly, the majority of air pollution emissions are generated by mobile sources of pollution—these include cars, trucks, motorbikes, and aircraft. Thus, pregnant women are encouraged to use protection during peak traffic hours

Men wear surgical masks due to elevated levels of pollution during smog in Mexico City, Mexico May 16, 2019.

Men wear surgical masks due to elevated levels of pollution during smog in Mexico City, Mexico May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

Latin American Post Staff

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By now everyone knows that poor air quality is associated with a host of health problems involving the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Air pollution exposure is known to cause asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and even lung cancer, making air filters an important tool in parts of the country with bad air quality. Its effects are particularly dangerous to at-risk segments of the population including children, the elderly, individuals with existing health conditions, and pregnant women.

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In fact, a recent study by a team of researchers from the University of Utah has linked air pollution exposure to a higher risk of pregnancy loss. More specifically, the study concluded that short-term exposure to elevated levels of air pollution was linked to a higher risk of spontaneous pregnancy loss.

According to Matthew Fuller, the paper’s senior author and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Utah, the study’s findings highlight the harmful effects of air pollution that everyone isn’t just exposed to, but also contributes to. He added that air pollution can only be solved if everyone comes together to make sacrifices.

The University of Utah study, however, is not the first to find associations between air pollution and miscarriages.

Experts have suspected for some time that exposure to common air pollutants like ozone, nitrogen oxides, and fine particulate matter may increase the risk of pregnancy loss. A 2017 study by the National Institutes of Health had already found that smog may be a contributing factor to early pregnancy loss.

Finding the connections between outdoor and indoor air quality and maternal health

Professor Fuller notes that his interest in how outdoor and indoor air quality affects expecting mothers was spurred after noticing a possible link between air pollution and miscarriages in his personal and work life.

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Specifically, he had a number of close family members who lost a pregnancy after experiencing a particularly bad air quality event. And in the emergency department, he also saw more women suffering miscarriages in the first few weeks of their pregnancy during and shortly after periods of poor outdoor air quality.

True enough, Fuller and his fellow researchers may be on to something, as their research found a 16 percent increase in risk for miscarriage among women exposed to nitrogen dioxide levels that exceeded the government’s recommended limit over a seven-day period.

The study’s results are particularly concerning for residents in mid-size to large cities in Latin America, which suffer from severe periods of air pollution. According to the latest report from the Clean Air Institute, Monterrey, Guadalajara and Mexico City (Mexico), Cochabamba (Bolivia), Santiago (Chile), Lima (Peru), Bogota and Medellin (Colombia), Montevideo (Uruguay) and San Salvador (El Salvador) are 10 most polluted cities in Latin America. Unsurprisingly, the majority of air pollution emissions are generated by mobile sources of pollution—these include cars, trucks, motorbikes, and aircraft. Thus, pregnant women are encouraged to use protection during peak traffic hours.

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