The quality of the air pregnant women breathe has an impact on the developing fetus, according to a new study. The study was published in the Environmental Health. Researchers noted a potential 30% increase in premature births associated with certain types of air pollution.

About 100,000 childbirths were used in the study. Researchers chose participants living within a five-mile are around air quality stations in California. This made it easier to compare air quality with pregnancy outcomes. The study spanned 22 months. Air pollutants like carbon monoxide, ozone and toxic chemicals were noted in the study. Three main air pollutants topped the list:

  1. PAH or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other critical toxic air pollutants – 30% increase in premature births.
  2. Ammonium nitrate fine particles – 21% increase in premature births.
  3. Benzene, fine particles from diesel fuel – 10% increase in premature births.

Other pollutants were found to cause negative impact on pregnancy, but they were pollutants native to California and thus not taken into consideration in this study.

According to researchers, air pollutants have long been associated with lower than normal birth weights and premature birth, but this study specifically noted PAH, an automotive pollutant, as a major cause for concern. While not all areas have trouble with PAH pollution, big cities and densely populated areas are a concern. It is important to reduce PAH and its impact on pregnancy. “To reduce the effects of these pollutants on public health, it is important that accurate modeling of local and regional spatial and temporal air pollution be incorporated into pollution policies.”, says Dr. Beate Ritz.

Source: Michelle Wilhelm, Jo Kay Ghosh, Jason Su, Myles Cockburn, Michael Jerrett, Beate Ritz. Environmental Health. 7 October, 2011.