U. BUFFALO (US)—Pregnant women can breathe a little easier about air pollution.

A new study indicates that exposure to carbon monoxide and fine particles in the air during pregnancy does not appear to increase the risk of preterm delivery or preeclampsia.

Research conducted in the Seattle area, used data from 3,675 women who were enrolled in the Omega Study, an investigation of the effects of diet and environment on women’s health and nutrition before and during pregnancy.

“There is strong evidence that air pollutants may increase risk of cardiovascular disease,” says Carole Rudra, assistant professor of social and preventive medicine at University at Buffalo.

“This led me to examine air pollutants in relation to preeclampsia, which is similar to cardiovascular disease and a risk factor for the condition.

“Pollutants may interfere with delivery of oxygen to the placenta and increase maternal oxidative stress and inflammation. These pathways could lead to both preeclampsia and preterm delivery.”

Rudra notes carbon monoxide levels were fairly high in the Seattle area in comparison with other US cities when research began, but have declined significantly in recent years.

Data from regional air-pollutant-monitoring reports on concentrations of carbon monoxide (CO) and minute airborne particles (such as dust, fumes, mist, smog and smoke) were collected during specific exposure windows at residences of study participants.

The exposure windows were the three months before pregnancy, the total of the first four months of pregnancy, during each trimester, and the last month of pregnancy.

Preeclampsia is a condition in which high blood pressure and protein in the urine develop after the 20th week (late second or third trimester) of pregnancy. Symptoms are swelling of the hands, face or eyes, and sudden weight gain. Delivery is the only cure. Preterm delivery was defined for this study as occurring less than 37 weeks of gestation.

Analysis of the data showed that the amount of air pollutant exposure at any of the collection times had no effect on either of the pregnancy problems.

“In this geographic setting and population, these two air pollutant exposures do not appear to increase risks of preeclampsia and preterm delivery,” notes Rudra.

She now is planning to examine women’s health outcomes in relation to air pollutants in Western New York.
Researchers from the University of Washington contributed to the study, that was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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