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Air Pollution Exposure During Pregnancy May Harm Baby's Lungs

Short & Sweet

Moms-to-be who are exposed to traffic-related air pollution during their second trimesters are more likely to have children with decreased lung function at preschool age.

The Lowdown

There's a lot to love about the second trimester of pregnancy (goodbye morning sickness!). But according to Medical XPress, a study published online in the journal Thorax links second trimester exposure to benzene and NO2, which are markers of traffic-related pollution, to a higher risk of lung damage in unborn children.

A research team in Spain aimed to look at exposure to air pollutants during specific trimesters of pregnancy and the long-term impact on a developing baby's lung function. Researchers studied 1,295 pregnant women's exposure to benzene and NO2 where they lived. Then, the team measured the lung function of about half of their children, at age 4 1/2 years old.

Children whose mothers were exposed to higher levels of benzene during the second trimester of pregnancy showed a 22 percent higher risk of impaired lung function versus children whose moms lived in less polluted areas.

Children whose mothers were exposed to higher levels of NO2 during the second trimester showed a 30 percent higher risk of impaired lung function than children whose moms lived in less polluted areas.

Contrary to what one might expect, exposure to air pollution in infancy and during the first few years of life did not seem to be correlated to decreased lung function at preschool age.

The Upshot

"Public policies to reduce exposure to traffic-related air pollution may avoid harmful effects on lung development and function with substantial public health benefits," the study authors say.

So if you live in a high-traffic area and are pregnant, consider contacting your Congressional representative to learn how you can help efforts to reduce air pollution.

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