Exposure To High Levels Of Air Pollution Can Affect Fetal Growth, Review Finds
Researchers at the University of Aberdeen looked global research published over the last decade to establish how much of an effect the mother's exposure to air pollution, diet, alcohol and chemicals can have on a unborn baby's growth in the womb.
The review found that the latter three factors didn't affect fetal growth.
However, the researchers discovered evidence which suggested that exposure to nitrogen dioxide can cause smaller head sizes in a baby, especially during the final three months of pregnancy.
The review looked at seven studies where air pollution was measured and linked to foetal size across a number of countries in Europe, Australia and the States to make the connection.
Leading the review was Professor Steve Turner who called the link between exposure and fetal growth "apparent".
"What was unique about our review of the literature is that we looked at unborn babies to see if mothers' exposures to these factors affected fetal development," he explained.
The professor highlighted other evidence which links small birth weight to to the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and asthma.
The scientist continued: "Previous research has shown that being small - for gestational age - at birth is associated with increased risk for conditions that include coronary artery disease, type two diabetes and asthma.
"Our research has shown that the link between exposure and fetal growth is apparent well before birth, so any potential interventions need to happen in the early stages of pregnancy."
He added: "Furthermore, the findings also suggest that public health measures are urgently required to minimise pregnant mothers' exposures to nitrogen dioxide."
Nitrogen dioxide mostly comes from cars and other vehicles, but is also found in cigarette smoke, central heating boilers, and butane or kerosene heaters and stoves.
The government has said it will spend £3.5billion to clean up pollutants on the roads with the 'Clean Air Strategy'.
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