Pregnant women exposed to high levels of air pollution are more likely to have children with ASTHMA, study warns

  • Scientists studied pregnant woman exposed to ultra-fine particle air pollution  
  • Slightly more than 18 per cent of their babies developed asthma by age three
  • In comparison just seven per cent of babies in the US are diagnosed with asthma 
  • The reason for the findings remains unclear, but researchers suggest pollution may alter bodily regulatory system like the nerocrine and immune function

Pregnant women who are exposed to high levels of air pollution are more likely to have children with asthma, a new study has revealed.

Researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York studied 376 mothers and their babies to understand whether exposure to ultra-fine particles in air pollution during pregnancy could be passed on to infants.

This is the first time asthma has been linked with prenatal exposure to this type of air pollution, according to the team.

Pregnant women who are exposed to high levels of air pollution are more likely to have children with asthma, a new study has revealed (stock image)

Asthma is a respiratory condition that affects roughly one in 12 adults in the UK.

The NHS explained: ‘Asthma is a common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties.

‘It affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood, although it can also develop for the first time in adults.’

The condition is caused by swelling of the breathing tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs, with common triggers including allergies, smoke and exercise.

In this new study, researchers set out to understand if asthma could also be caused by exposure to ultra-fine particulate pollution in utero.

Ultra-fine particulate pollution includes particles that are smaller than the width of an average human hair.

Worryingly, this small size means that these particles can get deeper in the lungs and even pass into our circulation.

Dr Rosalind Wright, who led the study, said: ‘One reason ultra-fine particulates are not routinely monitored is that there have been a number of unique challenges to measuring them accurately.

‘Fortunately, recent methods have been developed to provide such exposure data which allowed us to conduct this study.’

The study included 376 mothers and their children who live in the Boston metropolitan area and were already being followed to assess their health.

The team partnered with scientists from Tufts University, who had developed a way to provide daily estimates of ultra-fine particulate exposure in each of the women’s areas.

For example, women who lived near major roadways with higher traffic density tended to be exposed to more of these tiny particles.

The researchers then followed up with the mothers three years later to find out whether or not their children had been diagnosed with asthma.

The results revealed that slightly more than 18 per cent of the children born to mothers highly exposed to ultra-fine particle air pollution developed asthma.

The results revealed that slightly more than 18 per cent of the children born to mothers highly exposed to ultra-fine particle air pollution developed asthma (stock image)

In comparison, just seven per cent of children overall in the US identify as having asthma.

Delving deeper into the results, the researchers found that girl babies were slightly more likely to develop asthma than boys.

While the reason for the findings remains unclear, the researchers suggest that pollution may alter certain bodily regulatory system like the nerocrine and immune function.

Dr Wright added: ‘This research is an important early step in building the evidence base that can lead to better monitoring of exposure to ultrafine particles in the United States and ultimately to regulation.

‘As we advance methods for measuring these tiny particles, we hope for replication of these findings, both within different geographic areas across the United States as well as globally.

‘Childhood asthma remains a global epidemic that is likely to grow with the anticipated rise in particulate air pollution exposures due to effects of climate change.’

 

WHAT HAVE RECENT STUDIES SHOWN POLLUTION CAN DO TO OUR HEALTH AND BODIES?

CAUSE CHILDREN TO HAVE A LOW IQ: Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found in May 2019 that children born to mothers who live in polluted areas have an IQ that is up to seven points lower than those living in places with cleaner air.

CAUSE CHILDREN TO HAVE POORER MEMORY: Researchers at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health found boys exposed to greater levels of PM2.5 in the womb  performed worse on memory tests by the time they are 10.

DELAY THE DEVELOPMENT OF CHILDREN: Youngsters who live less than one-third of a mile away from busy roads are twice as likely to score lower on tests of communication skills in infancy, found researchers at Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health in April. They were also more likely to have poorer hand-eye coordination.

MAKE CHILDREN MORE ANXIOUS: University of Cincinnati scientists claimed pollution may alter the structure of children’s brains to make them more anxious. Their study of 14 youngsters found rates of anxiety was higher among those exposed to greater levels of pollution.

CUT YOUR CHILD’S LIFE SHORT: Children born today will lose nearly two years of their lives because of air pollution, according to a report by the US-based Health Effects Institute and the University of British Columbia in April 2019. UNICEF called for action on the back of the study.

RAISE A CHILD’S RISK OF AUTISM: Researchers at Monash University in Australia discovered youngsters living in highly polluted parts of Shanghai have a 86 per cent greater chance of developing ASD. Lead author Dr Yuming Guo said: ‘The developing brains of young children are more vulnerable to toxic exposures in the environment.’

CAUSE ASTHMA IN CHILDREN: Four million children around the world develop asthma each year because of road traffic pollution, a major study by academics at George Washington University estimated. Experts are divided as to what causes asthma – but exposure to pollution in childhood increases the risk by damaging the lungs.

MAKE CHILDREN FAT: University of Southern California experts found last November that 10 year olds who lived in polluted areas when they were babies are, on average, 2.2lbs (1kg), heavier than those who grew up around cleaner air. Nitrogen dioxide pollution could disrupt how well children burn fat, the scientists said.

LEAVE WOMEN INFERTILE EARLIER: Scientists at the University of Modena, Italy, claimed in May 2019 that they believe pollution speeds up ageing in women, just like smoking, meaning they run out of eggs faster. This was based on them finding almost two-thirds of women who have a low ‘reserve’ of eggs regularly inhaled toxic air.

RAISE THE RISK OF A MISCARRIAGE: University of Utah scientists found in January that pregnant women are 16 per cent more likely to suffer the heartbreak of a miscarriage if they live in areas of high pollution.

RAISE THE RISK OF BREAST CANCER: Scientists at the University of Stirling found six women working at the same bridge next to a busy road in the US got breast cancer within three years of each other. There was a one in 10,000 chance the cases were a coincidence, the study said. It suggested chemicals in the traffic fumes caused the cancer by shutting down the BRCA genes, which try to stop tumours growing.

DAMAGE A MAN’S SPERM: Brazilian scientists at the University of Sao Paulo found in March that mice exposed to toxic air had lower counts and worse quality sperm compared to those who had inhaled clean air since birth.

MAKE MEN LESS LIKELY TO GET SEXUALLY AROUSED: Scientists at Guangzhou Medical University in China found rats exposed to air pollution struggled to get sexually aroused. Scientists believe it may also affect men, as inhaling poisonous particles may trigger inflammation in blood vessels and starve the genitals of oxygen – affecting men’s ability to become sexually aroused.

MAKE MEN MORE LIKELY TO HAVE ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION:  Men who live on main roads are more likely to have difficulty getting an erection due to exposure to pollution, a Guangzhou University in China study suggested in February. Toxic fumes reduced blood flow to the genitals, tests on rats showed, putting them at risk of developing erectile dysfunction.

RAISE THE RISK OF PSYCHOSIS: In March, King’s College London scientists linked toxic air to intense paranoia and hearing voices in young people for the first time. They said uncovering exactly how pollution may lead to psychosis should be an ‘urgent health priority’.

MAKE YOU DEPRESSED: Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers found in January that that the more polluted the air, the sadder we are. Their study was based on analysing social media users in China alongside the average daily PM2.5 concentration and weather data where they lived.

CAUSE DEMENTIA: Air pollution could be responsible for 60,000 cases of dementia in the UK, researchers from King’s College London and St George’s, University of London, calculated last September. Tiny pollutants breathed deep into the lungs and enter the blood stream, where they may travel into the brain and cause inflammation – a problem which may trigger dementia. Source 

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