Researchers found that women had a higher risk of miscarriage following short-term exposure to elevated air pollution…
From asthma to pre-term birth, air pollution has been associated with numerous adverse health outcomes.
Now, University of Utah Health researchers found that women living along the Wasatch Front – the most populous region in the state of Utah – had a higher risk (16 percent) of miscarriage following short-term exposure to elevated air pollution.
Noticing a pattern of pregnancy loss
“Not being from Salt Lake originally, I noticed a pattern in the relation to air quality and pregnancy loss,” said Matthew Fuller, M.D., assistant professor of surgery at U of U Health and senior author on the paper. “I knew this was an understudied question so we decided to dig deeper.”
Fuller joined University of Utah research analyst Claire Leiser on a retrospective study comprising more than 1 300 women who sought help at the U of U emergency department following a miscarriage (up to 20-weeks gestation) between 2007 to 2015.
The team examined the risk of miscarriage during a three- or seven-day window following a spike in the concentration of three common air pollutants: small particulate matter (PM 2,5), nitrogen dioxide and ozone. The study excluded women who lived outside Utah.
“We are really only seeing the most severe cases during a small window of time,” said Leiser, first author on the paper. “These results are not the whole picture.”
Leiser notes that the results suggest that there could be an increased risk for an individual. Their research only captured women who sought help at an emergency department at one hospital in the region. It does not account for women who may have sought outpatient care through their obstetric or primary care providers.
Air pollution is becoming a bigger problem
The team found a slight increased risk in miscarriage for women exposed to elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide (16 percent for 10 ppb increase during the seven-day window).
“While we live in a pretty unique geographic area, the problems we face when it comes to air pollution are not unique,” said Fuller. “As the planet warms and population booms, air pollution is going to become a bigger problem not only in the developing world but across the United States.”
The researchers tracked air quality by zip code, establishing six designated air basins within the Wasatch Front. They compared air quality in each basin to their patients’ outcomes.
“The results of this study are upsetting, and we need to work together as a society to find constructive solutions,” Fuller said.
What can pregnant women do?
Fuller recommends that women speak with their doctor about any health concerns.
Women can manage the risk by using an N95 particulate respirator face mask to filter out pollutants or avoid outdoor physical activity on poor air quality days.
Women can also use filters to lower pollution and, if possible, time conception to avoid seasonal episodes of poor air quality.
Source: University of Utah Health via www.sciencedaily.com
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