Air pollution from transportation has been on the radar of environmental experts for a long time. 95% of the world’s greenhouse emissions come from cars, and there is already work being done to reduce the footprint of automobiles. The new wave of electric vehicles (EVs) is well underway, and states are beginning to mandate rules on electric car sales to encourage consumers to invest in electric cars.
A recent study just increased concern around greenhouse emissions from cars. It turns out that car exhaust poses potential harm to pregnant women and their infants. Researchers have found a link between air pollution, specifically nitrogen dioxide from vehicle emissions, and pregnancy complications.
The Study and Its Findings
UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas conducted this study, and they matched over 60,000 birth records with air-monitoring data. The findings show a “significant association” between air pollution and adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Specifically, they found that pregnant patients who lived in urban areas with high levels of nitrogen dioxide had higher rates of preterm birth, including delivery before 28 weeks gestation.
The findings reached beyond preterm birth. The research showed an increase in babies that had to be admitted to neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) from infant respiratory issues.
Nitrogen Dioxide: A Silent Threat
So what exactly is nitrogen oxide, and why is it so harmful? Car exhaust is mostly made up of nitrogen dioxide, and it is a harmful pollutant. The lead researcher of the study was Dr. David Nelson, who is the chief of obstetrics and gynecology, and he emphasized that heavy traffic-related air pollution poses a “substantial threat” to pregnant individuals and their children’s health after birth.
These findings don’t come as a complete surprise since there is already significant data that shows a relationship between air pollution and respiratory issues in children and adults. However, this study does emphasize the need to reduce air pollution, especially for the sake of pregnant women and their unborn babies.