Blood pressure risk for children exposed to pollution in the womb

Leslie Hanson
May 16, 2018

According to a new study, babies exposed to air pollution and babies born to mothers exposed to air pollution during pregnancy are more likely to face high blood pressure, The Hill reported.

Their study - the first of its kind - looked at 1 293 mothers and their children aged three to nine.

Women who breathe polluted air during pregnancy may be more likely to have children who develop high blood pressure, a U.S. study suggests. The new research, published Monday in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, set out to determine if indirect fetal exposure to air pollution might be associated with higher blood pressure during childhood. Researchers examined outdoor air quality levels from the Environmental Protection Agency, taken near each woman's home when they were pregnant.

Noel Mueller, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University in the United States and senior author of the study published in the journal Hypertension, said, "Ours is one of the first studies to show breathing polluted air during pregnancy may have a direct negative influence on the cardiovascular health of the offspring during childhood".

The study findings lend additional support for at least maintaining, if not strengthening, air pollution standards set in 2012 under the US federal law known as the Clean Air Act, said Noel Mueller, a coauthor of the study. He says the government needs regulations to keep the air clean, for the health of the planet and the health of our children.

Those exposed to fine specks of soot spewed out in traffic fumes or from burning oil, coal and wood during the third trimester were 61 percent more likely to have elevated systolic blood pressure. Addressing these issues would not only bring about improved environmental quality but enhanced public health status for the people.


Each 5 ug/m3 increase in PM 2.5 exposure in the womb was associated with a 3.39 percentile increase in what's known as systolic blood pressure, the "top number" that represents the pressure blood exerts against artery walls when the heart beats. "Children who have elevated blood pressure in childhood have a higher probability of having hypertension later in life and cardiovascular diseases", Mueller told CBS.

"The observed association between maternal PM2.5 and offspring SBP association seems to be partly mediated by the effects of PM2.5 on fetal and childhood weight gain", the researchers concluded.

Researchers also adjusted for other factors known to influence childhood blood pressure, such as birthweight and maternal smoking.

A woman's fine-particulate matter exposure before pregnancy was not associated with blood pressure in her offspring. This is evidence that exposure in the womb is linked to childhood blood pressure, Mueller said.

Gold and Zanobetti noted that a National Institute of Health initiative, Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes, has the goal of better understanding the effects of environmental exposures on child health and "will offer further opportunities to evaluate the effects of potentially remediable prenatal and early life environmental exposures, including ambient and indoor pollution, toxicants and metals, on child BP and BP trajectories with import for adult cardiovascular risk".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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