Pregnant women exposed to pollution face higher risk of congenital defects

Pregnant women exposed to pollution face higher risk of congenital defects
Pregnant women exposed to pollution face higher risk of congenital defects

Air pollution is associated with a higher risk of pregnant women giving birth to offspring with congenital malformations, says the American Friends of Tel Aviv University.

Children, seniors, and people with respiratory conditions such as asthma are especially vulnerable to the effects of exposure to air pollution such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulphur dioxide, and particulate matter. The nationwide study is the first to analyze different types of conception-assisted reproduction technology (ART) versus spontaneous conception and the impact of these air pollution types on these groups.

“Our results suggest that exposure to higher levels of air pollution during pregnancy is associated with various adverse pregnancy outcomes,” said lead author of the study and professor Liat Lerner-Geva of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and School of Public Health and the Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research. “While our study mainly followed SC (spontaneous conception) infants, we also had the opportunity to assess a small sample of pregnancies that were conceived through ART, and observed a higher impact of air pollution – particularly with regard to ozone exposure. This is clearly a uniquely susceptible population that should be further explored.”

Researchers analyzed data on 216,730 children who were born in Israel between years 1997 and 2004. Israel maintains a national ART registry for all cycles. Air monitoring stations provided information on sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone, and particulate matter levels in various areas in Israel. The amount of exposure to pollution during the first trimester and the entire pregnancy was determined by each woman’s geographical location.

Exposure to particulate matter and nitrogen oxides during pregnancy was associated with a higher risk of congenital malformations such as specific defects in the circulatory system (nitrogen oxides and particulate matter) and in the genital organs (nitrogen oxides). Exposure to sulphur dioxide and ozone in pregnancies with conception-assisted reproduction did have an insignificantly higher risk of congenital defections.

“Considering the worldwide decline in fertility, and the increasing number of children born through ART treatments, our findings about their increased risk of congenital malformations are very relevant,” said Lerner-Geva. “It is essential we continue to evaluate this unique population.”


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