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Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy may increase blood pressure in early life

Researchers study the impact on childhood blood pressure of pre- and post-natal exposure to environmental factors such as pollution, noise, and a dense built environment.

Exposure to an urban environment characterised by high levels of air pollution and noise in areas with a high building density during the foetal period and in early childhood may contribute to higher blood pressure. This was the conclusion of a study led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) published in Environment International. ISGlobal is an institution supported by the “la Caixa” Foundation.

To study the impact of urban exposures on the cardiovascular health of children, the research team analysed data from 4,279 children living in six European cities (Bradford in the United Kingdom, Poitiers and Nancy in France, Sabadell and Valencia in Spain, and Heraklion in Greece). All the children were participants in the European HELIX project.

The team assessed multiple aspects of the children’s environment: initially, during the prenatal period, the place of residence of the mothers during their pregnancy, and subsequently the homes of the children themselves. Factors studied included the built environment, natural spaces, traffic, air pollution, noise, climate and level of social and economic privation. Assessing the children’s blood pressure when they were between four and five years of age allowed them to study the long-term effect of the exposures analysed.

Analysis of the results showed that exposure to higher levels of air pollution, particularly during the first two terms of pregnancy, was associated with higher blood pressure in childhood. Specifically, a 9.1 μg/m3 increase in NO2 was associated with a 0.9 mmHg increase in diastolic blood pressure. (A healthy diastolic blood pressure in…

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