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  NOVEMBER 30, 2012
Washington Finds Low-Level Air Pollution has Modest Effect on Fetal Growth

Exposure to low levels of air pollution has modest effects on fetal growth, according to a study in the Puget Sound area by the University of Washington Schools of Public Health and Medicine and the Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

The study looked at more than 367,000 births between 1997 and 2005 in the four-county Puget Sound region, including the metropolitan areas of Seattle and Tacoma, and estimated prenatal exposure to traffic-related air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide. Previous studies have identified high concentrations of air pollution as harmful to a developing fetus, but few studies have looked at areas with low or moderate levels of air pollution.

“We found associations in the Puget Sound area between increased levels of nitrogen dioxide exposures and an increased risk of small-for-gestational-age birth,” said lead author Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, an assistant professor of pediatrics and adjunct assistant professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at Washington. Such babies are smaller in size than normal for the baby’s sex and for the number of weeks of pregnancy; they may have problems including decreased oxygen levels and low blood sugar.

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[Photo: Dr. Sheela Sathyanaraya]