Exposure to air pollution in the womb is associated with an increased risk for high blood pressure in childhood, researchers report.
The study, in the journal Hypertension, measured air pollution exposure in 1,293 pregnant women by matching each mother’s address with readings from the nearest air quality monitor.
Researchers recorded levels of PM 2.5, particles so small that they can enter the lungs and bloodstream. The investigators found that compared with the one-third of children exposed to the lowest PM 2.5 levels, the one-third exposed to the highest were 61 percent more likely to have high blood pressure between ages 3 and 9. Each 5-microgram-per-cubic-meter increase in PM 2.5 led to a 46 percent increased risk for pediatric hypertension.
Researchers suggest that air pollution is linked to inflammation in the uterus and placenta.
“High blood pressure in children portends high blood pressure in adults, which leads to higher cardiovascular disease risk,” said a co-author, Noel T. Mueller, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Air pollution is a major contributor to premature death.”