Pregnant Women Exposed to Air Pollution Associated with a Higher Blood Pressure in Their Children

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New research published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension shows that mothers that were exposed to air pollution during the third trimester of their pregnancy increased the risk of their child to have higher blood pressure.

When pollution from motor vehicles, burning oil, coal or biomass enters the air, it fills it with the fine particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less. These particles enter the humans’ circulatory system, affecting their health. Other studies showed that exposure to air pollution increased blood pressure in children and adults. It’s also causing illness and premature death all over the world.

Risks of Cardiovascular Disease in Children

Noel T. Mueller, Ph.D., M.P.H., is the senior author of the study. He is also an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health (Baltimore, Maryland). He explains what the goal of their study is:

“Ours is one of the first studies to show breathing polluted air during pregnancy may have a direct negative influence on the cardiovascular health of the offspring during childhood. High blood pressure during childhood often leads to high blood pressure in adulthood and hypertension is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease.”

The study examined 1,293 mothers and their children. Researchers measured blood pressure at each physical examination of a child at 3- to 9- years old. They also adjusted their findings according to other factors like maternal smoking or birthweight.

Results showed that the mothers that were exposed to high levels of pollution during their third trimester of pregnancy had children that were 60% more likely to have elevated blood pressure.

Keep the Air Clean

Mueller said that the results should again reinforce how important it is to lower emissions of PM2.5 in the air:

“Not only does exposure increase the risk of illness and death in those directly exposed, but it may also cross the placental barrier in pregnancy and affect fetal growth and increase future risks for high blood pressure.”

Mueller concluded that “we need regulations to keep our air clean, not only for the health of our planet but also for the health of our children.”

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Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.


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