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Mothers exposed to air pollution 20% more likely to have babies with birth defects, researchers find


PHOTO: Willing Life

Women exposed to air pollution before getting pregnant are nearly 20 percent more likely to have babies with birth defects, new research reveals.

Living within 5km of a highly-polluted area one month before conceiving makes women more likely to give birth to babies with defects such as cleft palates or lips, a United States (U.S.) study found.

The findings were published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

For every 0.01mg/m3 increase in fine air particles, birth defects rise by 19 percent, the research adds.


Fine air particles, which weigh less than 0.0025mg, are given out in vehicle exhaust fumes and, when breathed in, become deposited in the lungs where they enter the circulation.

Previous research suggests this causes birth defects as a result of women suffering inflammation and ‘internal stress’.

How the research was carried out. Researchers from the University of Cincinnati analyzed 290,000 babies living in Ohio between 2006 and 2010.

Monthly fine air particle levels were matched to the home addresses of pregnant women before and after they conceived.

Results also reveal living within 10km of a polluted region in the month after becoming pregnant raises babies’ risk of birth defects.

As well as cleft lips or palates, another common complication is the protrusion of the stomach or intestines through an unusual opening in the abdomen.

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Air Pollution
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