Nav: Home

Severe air pollution can cause birth defects, deaths

May 28, 2019

In a comprehensive study, researchers from Texas A&M University have determined that harmful particulate matter in the atmosphere can produce birth defects and even fatalities during pregnancy using the animal model.

The team of researchers from Texas A&M's Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Geosciences, the Texas A&M Health Science Center, and colleagues from the University of California-San Diego has had their findings published in the current issue of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

Using female rats, the team examined the adverse health effects of exposure to fine particulate matter consisting of ammonium sulfate commonly found in many locations around the world. Large fractions of this substance were detected not only in Asia, but also in Houston (51 percent) and Los Angeles (31 percent).

During winter months in China and India, where severe haze events frequently occur, fine particulate matter levels were especially high at several hundred micrograms per cubic meter, the team concluded.

Air pollution is a century-old problem for much of the world. According to the World Health Organization, 9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe air containing high level of pollutants, and 1 of every 9 global deaths can be attributed to exposure to air pollution, totaling over 7 million premature deaths a year.

Even in the United States, about one third of the population still live under poor air quality conditions, according to a report released by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2018.

"People typically believe that ammonium sulfate may not be terribly toxic, but our results show large impacts on female pregnant rats," Renyi Zhang, Texas A&M Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and the Harold J. Haynes Chair in Geosciences and one of the leading authors, said. "It is unclear yet what is causing these profound effects, but we speculate that the size of nanoparticles or even the acidity may be the culprit."

Zhang said sulfate is mainly produced from coal burning, which is a major energy source for much of the world in both developed and developing countries. Ammonium is derived from ammonia, which is produced from agricultural, automobile, and animal emissions, "so this certainly represents a major problem worldwide," Zhang said.

"However, our results show that prenatal exposure to air pollution may not dispose offspring to obesity in adulthood," said Guoyao Wu, Texas A&M University Distinguished Professor and another of the lead authors of the study. "Nutrition and lifestyle are likely major factors contributing to the current obesity epidemic worldwide."

Numerous previous studies have shown that air pollution is a serious public health threat throughout the world, with millions of people breathing air that is far less than standards set by the World Health Organization.

In addition, previous studies have shown such pollution to impair metabolic and immune systems in animal offspring, but the team's study shows definitive proof of decreased fetal survival rates, and also shortened gestation rates that can result in smaller body weight, in addition to damage to brains, hearts and other organs in the adult rat models.

The findings present obvious concerns and challenges on a multi-scale level, the team concludes.

"While epidemiological studies have been widely adopted to assess the health effects of air pollution, these tend to yield little insight into adverse outcomes and long-term effects," Zhang said.

"Furthermore, there is an absence of clinical recommendations for prevention and treatment of air pollution-related health issues. Our study has demonstrated that well-controlled exposure experiments using animal models offer major advantages for future air pollution control and are promising in the development of therapeutic intervention and treatment procedures."
-end-


Texas A&M University

Related Air Pollution Articles:

Exploring the neurological impact of air pollution
Air pollution has become a fact of modern life, with a majority of the global population facing chronic exposure.
Spotting air pollution with satellites, better than ever before
Researchers from Duke University have devised a method for estimating the air quality over a small patch of land using nothing but satellite imagery and weather conditions.
Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy is associated with growth delays
A new study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) has found an association between exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and delays in physical growth in the early years after birth.
Nearly half of US breathing unhealthy air; record-breaking air pollution in nine cities
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of air pollution on lung health is of heightened concern.
Air pollution linked to dementia and cardiovascular disease
People continuously exposed to air pollution are at increased risk of dementia, especially if they also suffer from cardiovascular diseases, according to a study at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden published in the journal JAMA Neurology.
New framework will help decide which trees are best in the fight against air pollution
A study from the University of Surrey has provided a comprehensive guide on which tree species are best for combating air pollution that originates from our roads -- along with suggestions for how to plant these green barriers to get the best results.
Air pollution is one of the world's most dangerous health risks
Researchers calculate that the effects of air pollution shorten the lives of people around the world by an average of almost three years.
The world faces an air pollution 'pandemic'
Air pollution is responsible for shortening people's lives worldwide on a scale far greater than wars and other forms of violence, parasitic and insect-born diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and smoking, according to a study published in Cardiovascular Research.
Air pollution in childhood linked to schizophrenia
Children who grow up in areas with heavy air pollution have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia.
Air pollution can worsen bone health
A new study by the CHAI Project with over 3,700 people in India associates air pollution with a higher risk to develop osteoporosis.
More Air Pollution News and Air Pollution Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.