Pollution is as bad as smoking as a risk for pregnant women.
A study conducted by the University of Utah’s department of emergency medicine is the first to assess the impact of short-term exposure to air pollution.
It found that raised levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution that are commonplace around the world increased the risk of losing a pregnancy by 16 per cent. NO2 is a by-product of fuel burning, particularly in diesel vehicles.
The research was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility (Feb 2019).
“If you compare that increase in risk to other studies on environmental effects on the foetus, it’s akin to tobacco smoke in first trimester pregnancy loss,” said Dr Matthew Fuller, one of the research team.
The research team combined with population health scientists to analyse the records of more than 1300 women who attended the emergency department after miscarriages from 2007 and 2015.
The strongest link with a lost pregnancy was the level of NO2 in the seven days before the miscarriage.
To confront the problem the best action was to cut overall levels of pollution in urban areas, Dr Fuller said.
But he said women could choose to time their pregnancies to avoid the most polluted times of year. They could avoid exertion on polluted days and consider buying indoor air filters.
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Acute effects of air pollutants on spontaneous pregnancy loss: a case-crossover study
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