Air pollution, the releases of pollutants in the air, can cause detrimental effects on not only the planet but also on human health. The World health organization has reported about seven million deaths are caused by air pollution every year. Currently, nine out of 10 people live in places that exceed WHO’s guidelines on safe air pollutant levels. Majority of the people affected by such conditions are those who live in third world and developing countries.
Types of air pollution include
Smog (outdoor), fire/smoke/tobacco smoke (indoor + outdoor), toxic chemicals (outdoors), household chemicals such as asbestos (indoors), and allergens such as mold (indoors and outdoors).
Air pollution causes many health concerns in which pregnancy is also included. Air pollution can affect pregnant women and also the developing baby. Pollutants are capable of entering the bloodstream into the placenta which disrupts the fetus’ development.
The effects of air pollution on pregnancy depends on three factors. Firstly, what stage in development the fetus becomes exposed to the air pollutant. Secondly, how long the exposure lasts and the amount of air pollution. Lastly, the specific kind of air pollutant that the mother or baby was exposed to.
Air pollution on pregnancy outcomes
Women can give birth to their baby earlier than 39 weeks when being exposed to air pollutants. Preterm labor causes other issues such as low birth weight, underdeveloped lungs, and even death of the baby during or shortly after birth.
Stillbirth is the death of a baby which occurs after 20 weeks. A study conducted in 2018 revealed the correlation between exposure to air pollution and stillbirth. It was seen that the risk of stillbirth when exposed to air pollutants was highest during the third trimester.
To prevent or reduce negative effects of air pollution a few measures can be taken. To begin with, the pregnant people and their families can evacuate to a safer area when the air quality gets to a dangerous level. Another measure is to have the home tested for any household chemicals such as asbestos. Moreover installing a carbon monoxide detector can prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Furthermore, it can be beneficial to be indoors as much as possible or wear a mask when going outdoors to limit the air pollution exposure. Simple protection strategies like these may reduce the harmful effect air pollution has on pregnancy.