Air pollution exposure during pregnancy may increase the ris
Women exposed to higher levels of air pollution during pregnancy have babies who grow unusually fast in the first months after birth, putting on excess fat that puts them at risk of obesity and related diseases later in life, new research shows.

The study of Hispanic mother-child pairs, published in the journal Environmental Health, is the latest to suggest that poor air quality may contribute at least in part to the nation's obesity epidemic, particularly among minority populations who tend to live in places with more exposure to toxic pollutants.

The researchers followed 123 mother-infant pairs. About one-third were of normal weight pre-pregnancy, one-third overweight, and one-third obese.

The researchers used data that records hourly air quality data from ambient monitoring stations, to quantify their prenatal exposure to four classes of pollutants: PM2.5 and PM10 (inhalable particles from factories, cars, and construction sites), nitrogen dioxide, and ozone.

- "We found that greater exposure to prenatal ambient air pollution was associated with greater changes in weight and adiposity, or body fatness, in the first six months of life," said the investigator.

- In some cases, pollutants seemed to impact males and females differently.

- For instance, exposure to a combination of ozone and nitrogen dioxide in utero was associated with faster growth around the waist in females, while in males it was associated with slower growth in length and greater fat accumulation around the midsection.

- In adults, excess fat around the midsection has been linked to heart disease and diabetes.

These results indicate that prenatal ambient air pollutants exposure may alter infant growth, which has the potential to increase childhood obesity risk.