Air Pollution has been found to have adverse effects on pregnancy

What is the relationship between pregnancy and air pollution? Researchers at UCLA have found that exposure to air pollution can cause cellular changes in the placenta, which can affect the health of both mother and baby.

First of its kind

By now we all are very familiar with many of the adverse effects that air pollution, both indoors and outdoors, can have on our health. We know how polluted indoors can negatively affect people who suffer of asthma, and we also know that children’s mental health can be hit hardest by it. We know all this thanks to research that has been done about it, but these are cases were the research acts as confirmation of what we may have suspected all along.

Call it a gut feeling, or call it an educated guess, but the presence of air contaminants never indicates that something good is going to happen. We just know that being exposed to high concentrations will result in health problems. We just know that the environment is being slowly poisoned by it. We just know that our life quality will be greatly reduced if we do not do something about it now.

We just know that air pollution and pregnancies should not be mixed. Now, we have the science to back it up. A study done by Dr. Sherin Devaskar and her team at UCLA has found that exposure to air pollution introduces foreign substances into the blood, which in turns activates an immune response that negatively affects specialized cells that keep the placenta in perfect working conditions. Most importantly, this immune response tampers with the blood and nutrient flow between the mother and her child, which can result in complications for both.

Even though this is not the first time a study has been done to find the negative effects that air pollution has over pregnancies, it is the first one to focus on molecular signatures of the placenta. That is, it looked at variations in sets of placental genes that might be linked to important abnormalities in maternal or fetal health.

air pollution pregnancy

How was the study done?

Like many experiments of this kind, mice were used as the prime body of research, but it is important that we stop for a moment and explain why this is so. Why do results obtained with mice are extrapolated to humans? Aren’t we two distinct species? Indeed, we are. Yet, at the genetic level we are very similar. The common house mouse’s genome is not that different from a human’s, making it the perfect model to investigate and understand human diseases, as it would be morally dubious to do so with otherwise healthy individuals.

Back in her lab, Dr. Sherin Devaskar and her team divided their female mice in two camps. The first one, the research group, was exposed to various concentrations of air pollutants two months before conception and during the pregnancy, which usually lasts twenty days. The second group was just for control, so they were exposed to a saline solution. The results that Dr. Devaskar’s team found were not pretty.

They found that, among the mice exposed to pollution, the placental cells were compromised, greatly affecting the supply of nutrients from mother to child. Damage to placental cells eventually result in a malfunctional placenta, which then could lead to more fatal problems, sch as preterm labor or uteroplacental insufficiency. The latter is a rather uncommon, but very serious, condition that happens due an undeveloped placenta that is unable to supply the baby with oxygen and nutrients from the mother’s bloodstream. This, in turn, may lead to low birth weight and birth defects. What is troublesome, is that all of this comes from an autoimmune response to the presence of contaminants in the air, such as PM 2,5 particles and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2).

This research may be good enough to provide further proof about the risks of exposure to high concentrations of air pollution during periods of pregnancy, which confirms our natural suspicions, but doesn’t do much about the problem itself. Yes, it tells pregnant women to keep their eyes open for sources of contamination, but the issue at hand is that these sources are everywhere. Not only outdoors, in the highways and areas of industry, but also in our indoors. Because, as we have previously mentioned, staying inside the house or the office is not a guarantee that you will not be affected by air pollution.

air pollution pregnancy

What to do, then?

Unfortunately, air pollution is not going anywhere any time soon. There are plans and tricks to reduce it, such as London’s ULEZ program, which is set to be expanded in 2023, or the use of trees along highways as filters to mitigate the emissions of NO2, CO2 and PM 2,5 particles. Then, of course, we have cleaner technologies like the electric car, which will help considerably in the reduction of filthy air. But the crude reality is that all of these solutions (and more) are late comers, and the problem of environmental contamination is so vast and widespread that it will take a long time before we see a considerable improvement in air quality.

Even more important, is the problem of indoors contamination. The percentages vary only marginally from country to country but, on average, most westerners spend 90% of our time indoors. If we trust this number, then let us try and think about its implications. It means, for example, that if you are 50 years old now, you can multiply your age by .9 and discover that you have spent 45 of those years conducting your life indoors. 45 years of breathing polluted air; because indoor air quality, as we have pointed out, is not pristine.

The same contaminants that the mice were exposed to in Dr. Devaskar’s study can be found at offices, schools, houses, and apartment buildings. Some of them, because they are produced by sources at closed doors. Others, because they are brought in by opening doors and windows. This means that pregnant women who work either at home or the office are at high risk of developing the same health issues developed by women who are exposed to outdoors contamination.

air pollution pregnancy

Our AIR8 HEPA filters can help you out

PM 2,5 particles, NO2, dust and pollen, even nasty viruses like the common cold and Covid-19, can all be found indoors, so we at AIR8 have developed a range of products specifically designed to filter out these, and other, air pollutants. Our filters use medical-grade  High Efficiency Particle Air filters, of HEPA for short, that can filter out 99,97% of all toxic particles indoors, thus guaranteeing a space that is safe to breathe in.

All of our air filters use between four and six stages of pre-filtration and filtration, like Cold Catalyst, Ioniser and UV-GI light. They are low energy consumers and comfortably silent, easy to transport and their filtering range covers an area of up to 1399 Ft2. Ours is a product that finds the best equilibrium between price and quality, top of the market, and backed up by the CE marking that each of our filters proudly display. AIR8’s filters are the best choice to keep your offices clean and sanitary; your employees will be thankful for it, especially those who are expecting.


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