Here’s some bad news for the pregnant citizens of the forever congested streets of Metro Manila: all this traffic may increase your soon-to-come baby’s risk of asthma.
New research has found that babies born to moms who were exposed to air pollution from cars had an increased risk of developing asthma by the time they turned six years old. The study was conducted by The University of British Columbia and published in the European Respiratory Journal.
“Our study results highlight the danger of exposure to pollution while babies are still in the womb,” said lead author Hind Sbihi, research associate in UBC’s School of Population and Public Health.
The study involved over 65,000 Canadian children living in the busy streets of Vancouver and following up on them until they reached 10 years old. The researchers assessed the mother's exposure to air pollutants during pregnancy and monitored the children for physician-diagnosed asthma.
“The measurements focused mainly on traffic-related pollutants, including black carbon, fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and nitric oxide,” said the news release.
Results showed that mothers who lived close to highways had children who were 25% more likely to develop asthma by age five. In addition, they also found that babies who were born to older mothers or had a low birth weight were more susceptible to the respiratory effects of air pollution.
Other studies have also uncovered the ill-effects of air pollution on prenatal babies. A study published JAMA Psychiatry found that toddlers who were exposed to air pollutants--specifically polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAH--found in cars exhausts, cigarette smoke and powerplant emissions had higher risk for developmental damage.
“The more prenatal exposure to PAH, the bigger the white matter problems the kids had. And the bigger the white matter problems, the more severe symptoms of ADHD, aggression and slow processing they had on cognitive tasks,” said Dr. Bradley Peterson, director of the Institute for the Developing Mind at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and lead author of the study.
Another study, published in the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology, linked lower IQ scores in children to a combination of exposure to air pollution in the womb and being born to poverty. “The findings add to other evidence that socioeconomic disadvantage can increase the adverse effects of toxic physical 'stressors' like air pollutants,” the study said.
The take away: roll up your windows, pregnant moms. And avoid riding open air means of transportation like jeepneys, tricycles and motorcycles.
Sources: February 9, 2015. "Air pollution exposure during pregnancy linked with asthma risk" (ubc.ca)