Australian researchers announced the results of a new study this week, concluding that exposure to traffic pollution can raise pre-eclampsia risks by as much as 33 percent. Pre-eclampsia affects late-term pregnant mothers and involves dangerously high blood pressure that can lead to a number of birth complications, injuries, or even death.
While the study did not claim to have discovered what cause pre-eclampsia, it did find consistent statistical indicators that traffic pollution increases the likelihood of pre-eclampsia. Even a relatively small increase in exposure to pollution apparently causes a 33 percent higher risk.
The study also recognized that it is very difficult for pregnant mothers to avoid traffic pollution in a modern society. One of the authors expressed a hope that future reductions in pollution levels could help lower the pre-eclampsia rates.
Pre-eclampsia can be life-threatening for both the mother and the unborn child. It can cause the mother to suffer convulsions, seizures, strokes, or premature labor. If untreated, pre-eclampsia can lead to HELLP syndrome. HELLP syndrome can cause severe headaches, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, and abdomen pain.
Hopefully this study will be a significant step towards a more complete understanding of pre-eclampsia. One of the authors plans to build on this research by trying to isolate the specific pollution chemicals responsible for the increased risk.
Source: CBC News, “Traffic pollution increases pre-eclampsia risk in pregnancy,” Sept. 3, 2012