How air pollution affects the growth retardation in children

Insignificant and in many ways already familiar (especially for large Metropolitan areas) exhaust gases, microscopic dust particles and other polluting agents undoubtedly have a negative impact on our health. Every year, about 4 million people die due to dangerous particles in the air, and this is only data from the world health organization. But can such air have a negative impact on people who are not yet born, but are in the womb? Researchers from the Institute of global health in Barcelona believe that Yes.


According to scientists, if a pregnant woman is exposed to polluted air during the first trimester (the first 3 months of pregnancy), this can subsequently lead to growth retardation in her child. Moreover, the dirty environment has an impact not only in the first months of the baby’s life, but also up to 4 years! According to the researchers ‘ definition, almost any large metropolis, such as Moscow or Saint Petersburg, is suitable for an area with “polluted air”.

Sources of air pollution
To find out, Spanish scientists conducted a study involving more than 1,700 pregnant women living in the following cities in Spain: Asturias, Gipuzkoa, Sabadell and Valencia. With the help of monitoring stations, they studied the content of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air of these regions, it is usually “thrown out” by factories and PM2.5 — fine dust that is in any city, which is mainly raised by cars. After the first trimester, they began tracking the children’s health by making an estimate of their height and weight, measuring the mom’s waist size and blood pressure.

Parts of the polluted air are a mixture of particles, each of which does not exceed 2.5 micrometers in diameter. Once in the lungs, these particles mostly settle there, but they are so small that they can enter the bloodstream and spread thanks to the developed vascular system to all our organs and tissues.

Accordingly, they get to the fetus of a pregnant life as well as to her heart, liver and other organs.

After the children were born, the researchers also continued their observation until they were 4 years old. During this time, scientists recorded a decrease in the weight and body mass index of children up to 30% in comparison with the who reference scales. The greatest impact was caused by fine dust PM2.5, and the delay in growth and weight gain in boys was stronger than in girls. In addition, hundreds of children were found to have a risk of heart disease, but it was not possible to link this with the harm from poor ecology.

Previously, it was believed that polluted air affects children, but only in the first months of their life. It’s just that no one has conducted such large-scale research as the Spanish scientists. The first trimester of pregnancy was chosen specifically, since this time is the most important for the development of the fetus. It is just beginning to form, and at this stage, the child’s cardiovascular system already appears.

To make the study more accurate, the researchers also pre – conducted a survey of mothers. They were asked about bad habits (Smoking, alcohol, and so on), diseases, and lifestyle. However, it is still possible that in one case or another the growth and weight of the child was influenced by hereditary factors and, for example, the physical activity of the mother, and not the environmental situation.

What is dangerous about dirty air
In fact, the above-mentioned regions of Spain can not be called highly polluted, so it is even scary to imagine that if you conduct a similar experiment in larger cities — for example, in new York, London, or the same Moscow. In these cities, the content of harmful substances and fine dust is much higher. Only in Russia, due to air pollution, life expectancy on average decreased by 9 months. Now there are even special online maps where you can study the concentration of air pollutants in Moscow districts. Near places where methane is burned, the concentration of harmful substances often exceeds the norm. Not to mention the constant emissions of hydrogen sulfide-information about this periodically appears in the media.

Last year, another group of scientists investigated the effects of air pollution on children’s developing brains and mental health. To do this, they analyzed 145 MRI images of 12-year-old children and used their residential addresses to assess how polluted the air they live in. Children living in areas with more polluted air were more likely to have symptoms of anxiety disorder. Moreover, these children had an increased concentration of a substance called myo-Inositol in the area of the brain that is responsible for emotional state. Its excess is dangerous not only for mental diseases, but also for impaired mental functions.

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