Environment

Fetuses take Air Pollution to Heart

By Jocelyn SelimApr 1, 2002 12:00 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

Pregnant women exposed to two common pollutants may give birth to babies with heart deformities, says epidemiologist Beate Ritz of the University of California at Los Angeles. She collected daily air pollution measurements from 30 locations around L.A. and correlated them to local birth registries. For women in areas with the highest levels of carbon monoxide and ozone, the risk of having a child with certain heart malformations and valve defects was triple that of women living in the least noxious neighborhoods. In moderately polluted areas, the risk was double. "The dose-response relationship is just about the closest you can get to a smoking gun in this kind of study," says Ritz.

Normally, two children in a thousand are born with such heart defects, which can be life threatening and require corrective surgery before age 1. In the most polluted areas, the incidence jumped to six per thousand. "The effects are probably much greater even than we're detecting because the worst cases result in miscarriages," Ritz says. She can't yet say which pollutants are to blame, as carbon monoxide levels may just be a marker for other harmful particles or chemicals, but the intensity of the effect shocked her: "Carbon monoxide is principally an indicator of car exhaust, and nearly every urban center in the country has exhaust levels that would be dangerous to pregnant women."

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Magazine Examples
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!

Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.