Scientists from Sichuan University have found that exposure to polluted air even before pregnancy can increase the risk of heart disease in a child. This is reported by the American Heart Association.
Congenital heart defects are the leading cause of infant mortality worldwide. More than 80% of heart defects have no known cause, but previous research suggests that environmental exposure may play a role.
The researchers analyzed data from more than 1.4 million babies born between 2014 and 2017 in 30 provinces and municipalities in China . 7335 children were born with heart defects. Scientists used satellite data to analyze a woman’s exposure to polluted air three months before conception through the end of the first trimester. Every 10 micrograms per cubic meter increase in average monthly exposure increased the risk of having a child with heart disease by 2%.
The study proved for the first time that dirty air is dangerous for a child even before conception. Moreover, the negative effects of air pollution were even greater with exposure before conception than with exposure during the first trimester.
It is not known whether these findings hold true in countries with less polluted air: in China, average concentrations of PM2.5 fine particulate matter in the air are 6.5 times higher than those recommended by the World Health Organization .
The American Heart Association recommends that women who are planning a pregnancy use home air filters and wear face masks in places with dirty air.