From asthma to pre-term birth, air pollution has been associated with numerous adverse health outcomes. Now a new study finds that air pollution can also increase the risk of miscarriage. The study, led by researchers from the University of Utah in the US, shows that even a short-term exposure to air pollution elevated the risk of miscarriage by 16 per cent.
They also observed a slight increased risk (by 6 per cent) for those exposed to elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide.
“The results of this study are upsetting, and we need to work together as a society to find constructive solutions,” said Matthew Fuller, senior author on the paper.
For the study, published in the journal, Fertility and Sterility, the researchers surveyed more than 1,300 women in the average age group of 28 years from the Wasatch Front — the most populous region in the US.
The team examined the risk of miscarriage during a three or seven-day period following a spike in the concentration of three common air pollutants — small particulate matter (PM 2.5), nitrogen dioxide and ozone.
“We are really only seeing the most severe cases during a small window of time. These results are not the whole picture,” said Claire Leiser, research analyst at the varsity.
Leiser notes the results suggest there could be an increased risk for an individual.
However, the scientists were unable to ascertain the age of the foetus at the time of the miscarriage and were unable to pinpoint a critical period when the foetus may be most vulnerable to pollutants.
Fuller recommends that women can manage the risk by using a N95 particulate respirator face mask to filter out pollutants or avoid outdoor physical activity on poor air quality days. They can also use filters to lower indoor pollution and, if possible, time conception to avoid seasonal episodes of poor air quality.