Mothers’ Exposure to Traffic Pollution During Pregnancy Increases Asthma Risk in Children

Jun 8, 2009 by

Mothers’ Exposure to Traffic Pollution During Pregnancy Increases Asthma Risk in Children

Asthma rates in children today have soared to very high levels. This trend mirrors the rates of many other health conditions and ailments which the young ones suffer from nowadays.

One of the causes is an environmentally more toxic and polluted world. And the following article suggests that traffic pollution could be one of the contributors.

Asthma Risk in Children Raised by Traffic Pollution Exposure of Pregnant Mothers

by Reuben Chow

Asthma rates in developed nations are soaring, and it is extremely clear that environmental pollution has a big part to play in the increase. A study recently published in the journal PLoS ONE has revealed that traffic pollution could cause genetic changes in a pregnant woman’s womb, raising her child’s likelihood of getting asthma later.

Asthma Statistics

As at 2005, it was estimated that 20 million Americans had asthma, while 2002 figures indicated that some 9 million American children under the age of 18 had an asthma diagnosis. Asthma rates soared 75% from 1980 to 1994, while, more alarmingly, asthma rates in children aged under 5 ballooned more than 160% in the same period. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that one in ten children has asthma.

Details and Findings of Study

The study team had looked at the umbilical cord blood of 56 children, specifically looking at a gene called ACSL3. Using backpack air monitors, they also tracked the pregnant mothers’ exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), which is a by-product of the combustion process; PAHs are present in high amounts in areas with dense traffic.

And the research team discovered a strong link between the degree of PAH exposure and chemical changes which control the activation of the said gene. This is an example of an “epigenetic change”, whereby environmental factors influence gene activity but do not directly modify their structure or cause the genes to mutate.

“Our data support the concept that environmental exposures can interact with genes during key developmental periods to trigger disease onset later in life, and that tissues are being reprogrammed to become abnormal later,” said Dr Shuk-mei Ho, the director of the Center for Environmental Genetics at the University of Cincinnati and also the leader of the study.

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