Air pollution ‘as bad as smoking in increasing risk of miscarriage’

Air pollution is as bad for pregnant women as smoking in raising the risk of miscarriage, according to a scientific study. They said the finding was upsetting and that toxic air must be cut to protect the health of the next generation.

Air is already known to harm foetuses by increasing the risk of premature birth and low birth weight. Recent research has also found pollution particles in placentas.

The effect of long-term exposure to dirty air on the risk of miscarriage has been analysed previously. Studies from Brazil to Italy to Mongolia found a link, but others failed to do so.

However, the latest study is the first to assess the impact of short-term exposure to air pollution. It found that raised levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution that are commonplace around the world increased the risk of losing a pregnancy by 16%.

“It’s pretty profound,” said Dr Matthew Fuller, at the University of Utah’s department of emergency medicine and one of the research team. “If you compare that increase in risk to other studies on environmental effects on the foetus, it’s akin to tobacco smoke in first trimester pregnancy loss.” NO2 is produced by fuel burning, particularly in diesel vehicles.

esults were applicable elsewhere: “There are many places in the world that suffer from pollution that is far greater, so this is not a problem unique to Utah. This is a problem we are all facing.” NO2 levels in Salt Lake City are similar to those in cities such as London and Paris.

Fuller was initially alerted to the issue when a family member lost a miscarried during a particularly poor period of air quality in 2016. He said: “That triggered the question in my mind and then I started noticing anecdotally that I was seeing spikes in miscarriage numbers in the emergency department during and after [pollution spikes].”

 

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