Exposure to higher levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) increases the risk of miscarriages by 16%.
Not even in the womb are children save from the harmful effects of toxic air. Air pollution can trigger premature births and lower birth weights, both of which can be a threat to the wellbeing of newborn children.
It gets worse, though, according to a new study, whose authors have found that exposure to higher levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) increases the risk of miscarriages by 16%.
They based this finding on research conducted in Salt Lake City and its environs. However, the effects must be the same elsewhere with similar levels of NO2 such as Paris, London and elsewhere where diesel vehicles are common.
“There are many places in the world that suffer from pollution that is far greater, so this is not a problem unique to Utah,” stresses Matthew Fuller, a member of the research team who works at the University of Utah’s Department of Emergency Medicine.
The effects of toxic air on pregnant women are comparable to heavy smoking, he adds. “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,” Fuller says.
“Many of us think there is an effect [of air pollution] on our health, but to find out there are actual effects on unborn children is very upsetting,” the researcher adds.
Pregnant women should seek to avoid spending much time outdoors in heavily polluted urban areas, especially when pollution levels are particularly high because of weather conditions. Installing air filters indoors can help. Unfortunately, women in some of the world’s most polluted cities such as Mumbai and Delhi in India often cannot afford such “luxuries,” Fuller notes.