Air Pollution Found to Produce Fetal Abnormalities

Air pollution might be affecting not only those of us who can witness it everyday, but also those who haven’t entered the world yet.

Air pollution can cross the placenta and reach the fetus, leading to cancer-causing genetic abnormalities, according to findings by Columbia University researchers.

Dr. Frederica P. Perera, Director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, and colleagues studied 60 women during the third trimester of pregnancy in low-income neighborhoods in New York City.

The women were equipped with air monitors to pick up emissions from cars, buses, power generators, residential heating and tobacco smoking. After birth, the team tested the babies and found a roughly 50 percent increase in genetic abnormalities among infants with high levels of exposure to pollutants.

“We already knew that air pollutants significantly reduced fetal growth, but this is the first time we’ve seen evidence that they can change chromosomes in utero,” said Perera, in a report by the Associated Press.

The Columbia researchers’ findings are detailed in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention.