For Pregnant Women, Air Pollution Just As Bad As Cigarettes

pregnant women air pollution

With air pollution on the rise around the world, just breathing could put pregnant women at risk.

Most women realize that certain behaviors are bad for fetal health, so those who use cigarettes or drink regularly often stop during pregnancy. One thing pregnant women can’t stop doing though, is breathing, and according to a recent study about air pollution, that could increase their risk of developing deadly complications such as preeclampsia.

Researchers from the University of Florida found that pregnant women who endure constant exposure to air pollution are significantly more likely to develop a high blood pressure disorder during pregnancy, which causes big problems for mother and fetus.

There are very few places on Earth where air pollution isn’t an issue…even inside our homes. For many years, coal-fired power plants and fossil-fuel powered cars have been chugging air pollution into the atmosphere. This is bad news for any creature that breathes, but researchers found that heavy exposure to four of these air pollutants is especially bad for pregnant women.

“The pollutants include two specific types of fine and coarse particulate matter, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide. These inhalable particles are released from industries and forest fires and can form when gases react with each other in the air. Sulfur dioxide is emitted from power plants and industries. Most carbon monoxide is produced by car exhaust,” explains a University of Florida press release.

During the study, the researchers examined data from more than 22,000 women who gave birth in Jacksonville, Florida, between 2004 and 2005, along with environmental data from their communities. More than four percent of these women developed a hypertensive disorder during pregnancy, and even after controlling for factors like socioeconomic status, exposure to co-pollutants and smoking during pregnancy, exposure to air pollutants throughout the first two trimesters of pregnancy was found to increase risk of developing hypertensive disorders such as gestational hypertension, preeclampsia and the deadly condition it leads to, eclampsia.

On the basis of these findings, the researchers say more air pollution control is necessary to prevent dangerous complications in pregnant women and babies. Which makes it even more disheartening to learn that the U.S. Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment recently killed a bill that would have allowed the Division of Air Quality to adopt rules that are more stringent than federal regulations.

Apparently when it comes to air pollution, our government thinks the status quo is good enough.

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Image: blmurch