Pregnant women should avoid polluted areas, suggests study

Exposure to pollution may impact cardiovascular system of foetus

March 14, 2019 12:50 am | Updated 01:53 pm IST - Mumbai

Exposure to air pollution in mother’s womb may have an impact on the cardiovascular system of the foetus.

Researchers from Rutgers University in the U.S. exposed pregnant rats to nanosized titanium dioxide aerosols — a surrogate for particles found in typical air pollution — and found an impact on the foetal systemic vascular function. The findings are worrisome, say, experts, especially in India, which is home to the world’s most polluted cities.

The study, published in Cardiovascular Toxicology, said that moderate vascular dysfunction was associated with a single maternal exposure to nanosized titanium dioxide aerosols. “These results provide evidence that exposure early in gestation (gestational day 4) will have a significant impact on the foetal systemic vascular function.”

Phoebe Stapleton, assistant professor, Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy and a faculty member at Rutgers Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, in a press statement said the findings suggest that pregnant women, women of child-bearing years who may be pregnant, and those undergoing fertility treatments should avoid areas known for high air pollution or stay inside on high-smog days to reduce their exposure. “Pregnant women should also consider monitoring their indoor air quality,” she said.

The Rutgers researchers found that exposures to pollutants early in gestation significantly impact a foetus’s circulatory system, specifically the main artery and the umbilical vein. Later exposure has the most impact on foetal size since the restricted blood flow from the mother deprives the foetus of nutrients in this final stage.

A 2018 World Health Organization report had said that certain inhaled or ingested pollutants that are small enough to penetrate the alveolar wall, including ultra-fine particulate matter and heavy metals, can enter the bloodstream of pregnant women and can then cross the placental barrier and reach the foetus, affecting growth and development by a variety of mechanisms.

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