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Air pollution may affect congenital heart malformations

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Air pollution may affect congenital heart malformations

There are several epidemiological studies suggesting that pollution from traffic may adversely affect the health of newborns. On this occasion, CREAL researchers found that the risk of coarctation of the aorta, a congenital heart defect, increased by 15% between the populations exposed to the lowest and highest levels of air pollution in Barcelona. This study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives by the researcher Anna Schembari, represents an advance from the previous results published in a meta-analysis by the same CREAL, an ISGlobal alliance research centre, group.

Researchers also conclude that exposure to traffic related air pollution, such as NO2 and particulate matter, may increase the risk of other birth defects not previously studied: risk of defects of the digestive system and the abdominal wall. There were no associations for the many other groups of congenital defects studied such as: neural tube defects, respiratory system defects, orofacial clefts, urinary system defects, hypospadias, and limb reduction defects.

The study used information on 2,300 babies with birth defects born between 1994 and 2006 in Barcelona, collected by the Birth Defects Registry of Barcelona (REDCB). This study is part of the EUROCAT European network of population-based registries of congenital anomalies that exists since 1979 and surveys congenital anomalies in more than 1.7 million births per year in 23 European countries.

Barcelona is one of the most polluted cities in Europe, due to its geography, high traffic density (which is four times higher than London), and large proportion (50%) of diesel-powered vehicles that emit the most harmful particles.

Reference: Schembari A, Nieuwenhuijsen MJ, Salvador J, de Nazelle A, Cirach M, Dadvand P, Beelen R , Hoek G, Basagaña X, Vrijheid M. Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Congenital Anomalies in Barcelona. Environ Health Perspect 2014: (in press).

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