Air Pollution In Some US Cities Linked To Birth Defects, Deaths

Exposure to air pollution in some cities across the world has been found harmful to pregnant women. A particulate matter in the atmosphere was recently found to cause birth defects and death of babies during pregnancy.

A study published in the journal of PNAS highlights the impact of ammonium sulfate that is currently abundant in many locations around the globe. This substance was found in high concentrations in Asia and in the U.S. cities of Houston in Texas and Los Angeles in California. 

Researchers from Texas A&M University and the University of California-San Diego examined the effects of air pollution on female rats and noted that the same effects may also occur in humans. 

"People typically believe that ammonium sulfate may not be terribly toxic, but our results show large impacts on female pregnant rats," the researchers said in a statement. "It is unclear yet what is causing these profound effects, but we speculate that the size of nanoparticles or even the acidity may be the culprit."

Renyi Zhang, professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M, said the substance commonly comes from coal burning as well as agricultural, automobile and animal emissions. The researchers found that air pollution decreased fetal survival rates, shortened gestation rates that may cause smaller body weight, damaged brains, hearts and other organs in animal subjects. 

Air Pollution and Pregnancy Risks

Zhang said ammonium sulfate is “a major problem worldwide." The World Health Organization estimates that nine out of 10 people worldwide live in areas where the air contains high level of pollutants.

Exposure to air pollution has been linked to more than seven million premature deaths annually. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a report in 2018 showing about one third of the population in the U.S. breathe poor quality air. 

"There is an absence of clinical recommendations for prevention and treatment of air pollution-related health issues,” Zhang said. “Our study has demonstrated that well-controlled exposure experiments using animal models offer major advantages for future air pollution control and are promising in the development of therapeutic intervention and treatment procedures."

los angeles Air pollution in Los Angeles has been found containing a substance that may harm the baby during pregnancy. Pixabay