Researchers Report on Prenatal Exposure to PM2.5

April 27, 2016 – Researchers at Johns Hopkins University published a study in which they found exposure to even small amounts of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) appear to increase the risk of intrauterine inflammation (IUI) – a condition in pregnant women that is linked to premature birth and lifelong neurological and respiratory disorders in their children.  By studying data from over 5,000 mother-child pairs from a predominantly low-income minority population (the Boston Birth Cohort), the researchers assessed the relationship between IUI and maternal exposure to ambient PM2.5 before and during pregnancy.  The researchers say this approach potentially bridges two previously studied relationships: PM2.5 exposure and preterm birth and IUI and preterm birth: “Our findings suggest that IUI may be a sensitive biomarker for assessing early biological effect of PM2.5 exposure on the developing fetus, which may in turn impact subsequent growth, development and health outcomes.”  Further, according to lead author Dr. Rebecca Massa Nachman, “This study raises the concern that even current standards for air pollution may not be strict enough to protect the fetus, which may be particularly sensitive to environmental factors.  We found biological effects in women exposed to air pollution levels below the EPA standard.”  Intrauterine Inflammation and Maternal Exposure to Ambient PM2.5 during Preconception and Specific Periods of Pregnancy: The Boston Birth Cohort was published online in Environmental Health Perspectives.