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Air Pollution is Adversely Affecting Fetal Health by Causing Birth Defects, Premature Birth and IUGR: A Wake-Up Alarm!

Author(s): Sanjay Kulshrestha

Air pollution has become one of the most serious threat to human health globally killing 1.1 million people in India alone. T he most recent victim is innocent human fetus which is developing serious disorders like birth defects, premature deliver y, IUGR or even fetal deaths due to exposure to gaseous and particulate air pollutants during pregnancy. Sometime there may be a genetic change due to air pollut ion that may not cause any obvious malformation or birth defects immediately but these babies are more prone to certain diseases like cardiac or metabolic disorders later in life. Short-term and long-term exposure to particulate air pollution may alter intrauterine environment or “genetic programming” of subsequent health, causing changes in gene expression that may be linked to later childhood and adulthood diseases. Recent reports and researches from various countries on air pollution causing adverse outcome of pregnancy are very alarming. If we believe these reports, in India 6.5 million babies of IUGR and 170,000 babies of birth defects are delivered every year due to air pollution. Researchers have not only established relationship of air pollution with different fetal disorder but also proved the relationship of different pollutants with a particular fetal disorder like birth defects, premature birth or IUGR and relationship with time of exposure during pregnancy versus type of disorder. We need to take some urgent measures to protect our fetuses during pregnancy by taking som e short and long term actions. These include some multicentric research and survey at national level in India to establish relationship of air pollution with adverse outcome of pregnancy and on the basis of that health authorities should take appropriate actions to prevent or minimize such pollution related diseases in fetuses during pregnancy.

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