Researchers look at air pollution and possible risk of stillbirths

May 26, 2016 Providence Health Team

Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy may increase the risk of stillbirths, according to a new study.

In their report, researchers from Finland and Ghana said governments should adopt policies to reduce air pollution, which is created by:

  • Vehicles, airplanes and trains
  • Factories and power plants
  • Construction sites
  • Mines

Pollutants with possible links to stillbirths

After reviewing 13 studies on air pollution and stillbirths, the research team found that a possible link was particularly high during the third trimester of pregnancy, from 28 to 42 weeks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 1 percent of U.S. pregnancies end in stillbirth, the death of a baby before or during delivery.

The study cited these pollutants as a possible cause of stillbirths:

  • Particulate matter, tiny solid or liquid particles found in the air
  • Nitrogen dioxide, found in motor vehicle exhaust
  • Sulphur dioxide, produced from burning fossils fuels such as coal and oil, and from smelting mineral ores such as aluminum, copper, zinc, lead and iron
  • Carbon monoxide, produced by gas, oil, coal and wood
  • Ground-level ozone, a key component of smog

The study’s authors said more research needs to be done to confirm that air pollution can cause stillbirths.

You can read about their research here.

How to protect yourself from air pollution

The March of Dimes Foundation offers these tips for pregnant women:

  • If you live near an air pollution source or have a health condition such as asthma, talk to your health care provider about how to minimize your exposure to air pollution.
  • If there’s a pollution or smog alert in your area, limit your time outside. If you must go out, do so early in the day or after sunset. Don’t engage in outdoor physical activity during the alert.
  • Visit AirNow, a government website, to check the air quality in your area.

Additional tips from the Environmental Protection Agency:

  • Stay away from tobacco and tobacco smoke. Make your home and car smoke-free environments.
  • Install approved carbon monoxide alarms outside all bedrooms.
  • Stay away from paint fumes and limit your time in freshly painted rooms.
  • Only use cleaning products while wearing protective gloves and in well-ventilated rooms.
  • Choose products with safer chemical ingredients.

Talk with your health care provider if you have questions or concerns about air pollution. You can find a Providence provider here.

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