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Air pollution could be one of the reasons for congenital malformations

Posted:  Monday, January 05, 2015

Air pollution is usually implicated to exacerbate respiratory conditions; however there could be other not so obvious negative effects too. A recent study provides evidence linking high exposure to air pollution to an increased risk of congenital malformations.

The research, published in Environmental Research, is the first to evaluate the association between different modes of conception using assisted reproductive technology (ART) versus spontaneous conception (SC) and the risks posed by exposure to air pollution to each.

As a part of the study, the researchers analysed data on 216,730 children born in Israel between 1997 and 2004. Air pollution data elaborating the levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2), particulate matter (PM10), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and ozone (O3), were obtained from air monitoring stations for the study period. They used a geographic information system to evaluate exposure to air pollution during both the first trimester and the entire pregnancy for each woman according to her place of residence.

They found that exposure to PM10 and NOx pollutants throughout full-term pregnancies were associated with an increased risk of congenital malformations, with specific defects evident in the circulatory system and genital organs. Although not significant, the researchers found that exposure to SO2 and O3 in ART pregnancies were associated with a higher risk of congenital defects.

"Our results suggest that exposure to higher levels of air pollution during pregnancy is associated with various adverse pregnancy outcomes. While our study mainly followed SC infants, we also had the opportunity to assess a small sample of pregnancies that were conceived through ART, and observed a higher impact of air pollution -- particularly with regard to ozone exposure. This is clearly a uniquely susceptible population that should be further explored,” said lead researcher Prof. Liat Lerner-Geva.

Air pollution is a rising concern especially in the urban set up exerting unseen effects on the many generations.

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