Air Pollution and Preterm Birth: A Potential Mechanism

From my latest article for the journal Environmental Health Perspectives:
Intrauterine inflammation (IUI) is a risk factor for a variety of adverse birth outcomes, and some investigators have hypothesized it could also play a role in the risk of being born preterm or underweight. Several other studies have demonstrated that a pregnant woman’s exposure to fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) appears to increase her baby’s risk of being born preterm or underweight. A new study bridges these lines of inquiry and offers evidence that IUI is associated with exposure to PM2.5. Coauthor Marsha Wills-Karp, a professor of environmental health sciences at The Johns Hopkins University, says, “The study gives us some indication that there’s an actual change in the placenta and … inflammation occurring in close proximity to the fetus that is associated with exposure to air pollution.”

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