Five percent of cases of pre-eclampsia may be linked to increased levels of the air pollutant ozone during the first three months of pregnancy, according to the results of a large study published in BMJ Open.
Pre-eclampsia is characterized by raised blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine during pregnancy. It can cause serious complications if left untreated.
The new findings are based on European data covering the prevalence of asthma among the mothers and levels of various air pollutants (including ozone). The researchers say there's a growing body of evidence pointing to a link between air pollution and premature birth, while pregnant women with asthma are more likely to have pregnancy complications, including underweight babies and pre-eclampsia.
The researchers found there was no association between exposure to levels of vehicle exhaust and complications, but there did seem to be a link between pre-eclampsia and exposure to ozone during the first three months of pregnancy.
The study calculations show that that one in every 20 (5 percent) cases of pre-eclampsia were linked to ozone levels during early pregnancy. Additionally, mothers with asthma were 25 percent more likely to have a child born prematurely and 10 percent more likely to have pre-eclampsia.
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Source: British Medical Journal