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A growing body of evidence shows that maternal exposure to air pollution may have some serious and negative effects on fetal growth and later child health — including learning disorders, lower IQ and even Alzheimers type symptoms. That said, most of the research on this topic, while abundant, is still inconclusive. A new study examines the association between maternal exposure to air pollution and low birth weight. Researchers on this study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, examined information sourced from more than three million births in nine nations and found that maternal exposure to pollution was indeed associated with low birth weight at term across all of the populations. The research focuses on airborne pollution particles that are small enough to penetrate the human respiratory tract, and findings show that the effect pollution has on birth weight is dose related — as in the more pollution a mother-to-be is exposed to, the higher the risk her baby will be low birth weight. Professor Tracey Woodruff from the University of California, San Francisco, tells BBC News, “What’s significant is that these are air pollution levels to which practically everyone in the world is commonly exposed.”

It’s tough to avoid traffic pollution while pregnant, but you can cut some pollution out of your prenatal life by taking tree-lined routes vs. high traffic congestive routes on your daily walks and by avoiding the worst home air pollutants. You can also check out the air quality in your area before heading outdoors.

+ Maternal Exposure to Particulate Air Pollution and Term Birth Weight: A Multi-Country Evaluation of Effect and Heterogeneity