Pregnant women have to be very careful about smoke, alcohol, and medications - in case their unborn baby should come to any harm through being exposed to toxins. What they often do not think about is that general indoor and outdoor air quality can also pose a threat. There is a lot of evidence that shows a link between low birth weight due to air pollution. Just look at these studies:
It is also important to understand how exposure to indoor air pollution may affect the unborn child (note how the above studies were focused on the exposure to mere traffic pollution or outdoor air pollution). The Born in Bradford study, one of the largest of the child health studies, covering 10,000 babies born in the city, will focus not only on the traffic pollution that you are exposed to in your home but also other indoor air pollution. Homes can have a toxic indoor environment that is created through the off-gassing from furniture, carpets, and paints.
Other sources of indoor air pollution are heating devices, gas ovens, candles, pets, dust mites, and mould for example. The Born in Bradford study will measure the air quality in the homes of pregnant women (along with many other factors) to see how they affect the health of the child. It will be some years before the results of this study are known. In the meantime, and given the evidence we already have, it is wise for pregnant women to avoid exposure to air pollution as much as possible, for the sake of the health of their unborn child. One of the best ways to avoid indoor air pollution is the use of a high-quality air purifier.
Sources: 1. Hansen JA et al The effect of ambient air pollution during early pregnancy on fetal ultrasonic measurements during mid-pregnancy Environmental Health Perspectives 2008 volume 116
2. Rich DQ et al Ambient air pollutant during pregnancy and the risk of fetal growth restriction Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2009;63:488-496
3. Perera F et al Benefits of reducing prenatal exposure to coal-burning pollutants to children’s neurodevelopment in China Environmental Health Perspectives online 14 July 2008
4. Ritz B et al Ambient Air Pollution and Risk of Birth Defects in Southern California American Journal of Epidemiology 2001;155:17-25