According to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), pregnant women in the U.S. exposed to high levels of air pollution have twice the risk of giving birth to a child with autism as women living in areas with low pollution.
The brain function and the developing baby are affected on exposure to diesel particles, lead, manganese, mercury, methylene chloride and other pollutants. Most of these pollutants are associated with autism more strongly in boys than girls. Although it is not clear how heavy metals and chemicals found in air pollution may affect a developing fetus but it is clear that traffic-related pollutants such as diesel can induce inflammation of the brain.
Pregnant women living in neighborhoods with lots of air pollution are more likely to develop high blood pressure. The gestational hypertension and high blood pressure makes it more likely that the woman will give birth early and that her baby will be born small.
According to a research published in Pediatrics from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at the Mailman School of Public Health, the risk of behavioral problems in children greatly increase when pregnant women suffer from physiological distress and high exposure to pollutants. Babies born with low birth weight are at a greater risk of dying in infancy. Low weight also leads to asthma in childhood and decreased lung function in adults.
Pregnant women highly exposed to traffic related air pollution during the whole pregnancy have an increased risk of preeclampsia.
The best way to limit exposure to traffic-related air pollution is to move out of such areas and keep off the roads, but those are not practical options. Avoiding smoking and eating a lot of fruits and vegetables help the body to fight off the toxins and other options. At the same time, environmental regulations must also change. Transport policies must be reconsidered to reduce exposure to large populations in dense metropolitan areas.