Birth, Sleep, Germs, & Race: New Science Reveals How Much We’re Affected by Bad Air

by jim on September 27, 2017

“Maternal exposure to ambient air pollution and fetal growth”

Universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen, August 2017 

Scientists studied maternal exposure to ambient concentrations of PM10, PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide (NO2for in utero fetal growth, size at birth and effect modification by smoking status.

Dirty air can lead to women giving birth to smaller babies ,according to new research which also warns that exposure to air pollution during pregnancy rivals the damage done by smoking. Lead scientist Dr Tom Clemens explained that his team’s findings showed that “a foetus with a non-smoking mother exposed to high pollution levels is only slightly better off than one with a smoking mother exposed to low levels of pollution”. Clemens urged the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union to review their separate definitions of what emission levels are considered acceptable.

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“Air Pollution and the Microbiome”  

University of Milan, September 2017

This is the first study to look at how air pollution levels relate to types of respiratory microbe in healthy people.

“Exposure to air pollution correlated with differences in the species of bacteria living in our respiratory tracts. Higher levels of particulates in the air from three days before sampling correlated with a lower diversity of bacteria in the nasal swabs. The concentration of Actinobacteria, the dominant group in a healthy microbiome, was lower in volunteers exposed to higher levels of pollution. The part that these bacteria play in the body is not yet clear, but they are known to produce compounds with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Another group of bacteria that can cause harmful respiratory infections, Moraxella, was typically found in greater concentrations in people exposed to higher pollution levels.” This is interesting because other studies have linked both air pollution AND gut bacteria to Autism. 

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“Relation of Air Pollution to Sleep”

University of Washington, September 2017

study linking air pollution to sleep efficiency, which is determined by comparing the amount of time participants spend sleeping at night to the time they spend awake.

“After collecting air pollution data in six U.S. cities over the course of five years, researchers analyzed the sleeping patterns of 1,863 participants—all of whom lived near those cities—over a span of seven days and found higher levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulates called PM 2.5 were linked to lower sleep efficiency. Further examination found that the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide increased the participants’ chances of suffering from low sleep efficiency by nearly 60 percent. The highest levels of PM 2.5s increased the odds of poor sleep by nearly 50 percent. Researchers also found the more participants were exposed to air pollution, the more hours in a day they spent awake.”

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“Changes in Transportation-Related air Pollution Exposures by Race-Ethnicity and Socioeconomic Status”

University of Washington, September, 2017

People of color are still far more likely to suffer from harmful air pollution than white people across the US and this disparity has barely improved in recent years, despite overall improvements in air quality.

“What surprised us is that race matters more than income when it comes to who is breathing in NO2,” said Julian Marshall, UW professor of civil and environmental engineering and senior author of the study,published in Environmental Health Perspectives on Thursday.“I just stared at these findings and thought: ‘What is going on?’ You would think places near highways would cost less. But it’s race that is driving this, not income. Urban planners tell us that cities are still really segregated – people live close to people who look like them. We are seeing the outcome of that.”

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