A collaborative effort between the Penn State College of Medicine and the Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals sought to explore the less-examined effects of prenatal air pollution exposure on newborns.
Chintan K. Gandhi, assistant professor of pediatrics at Penn State and the corresponding author of the study, emphasized, “Mothers’ exposure to air pollution while pregnant is known to be associated with adverse long-term respiratory issues, such as asthma, in their children. However, what we didn’t know is that maternal exposure to air pollution could cause babies to suffer severe respiratory distress soon after birth.”
The researchers conducted a comprehensive analysis of data from a three-year study involving 2,001 pregnant women across 10 Canadian cities. The study focused on the participants’ exposure to environmental chemicals, including PM2.5 and NO2.
The study revealed that newborns of mothers exposed to higher levels of PM2.5 had a higher likelihood of experiencing severe respiratory distress. This often necessitates interventions such as assisted ventilation and systemic antibiotics.
Also, maternal exposure to NO2 was associated with a heightened need for systemic antibiotics in newborns.
“We found that the more air pollution mothers were exposed to, the greater the chances that their babies would suffer severe respiratory distress. Our findings hold substantial importance as they suggest that preventing death and illness in babies due to respiratory distress is plausible through the reduction or elimination of air pollution. It is imperative for policymakers to grasp the gravity of this situation” Chintan K. Gandhi stated.