A new study by the University of Florida shows that air pollution may be harmful to pregnant women and their unborn children.
Xiaohui Xu, the lead researcher on the study, looked at women who gave birth in Jacksonville between 2004 and 2005 and compared their data with daily air pollution data from the Environmental Protection Agency.
“The study conducted suggests that inhaling contaminated air may have some adverse effects on fetal development,” he said.
They found that women exposed to air pollution during their first two trimesters had an increased risk of developing high blood pressure and other hypertension disorders. The pollutants studied include carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide, byproducts of car exhaust and industry respectively.
He said that avoiding air pollution may be difficult for pregnant women.
“I think for mothers dealing with an air pollution episode, like a forest fire or a traffic jam, the pregnant woman needs to avoid entering this area,” Xu said.
Although the effects of secondhand smoke on fetal development have been more thoroughly researched, with Xu’s research he believes that air pollution should be considered just as harmful as second-hand cigarette smoke.
Xu said he intends to extend his study into other cities in Florida and look at other conditions that can result from air pollution exposure during pregnancy.
“For the fetal development period, any change in the environment may have a long-term health consequence,” Xu said.