"A great deal of new evidence suggests that the respiratory system may be vulnerable to damage caused by inhaled environmental agents during the prenatal period," said Rachel L. Miller, MD, the study's lead author at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health, part of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York, NY.
"This study indicates that the combination of exposure to combustion by-products in the womb and to second-hand smoke during infancy can cause significantly more respiratory problems than either exposure on its own," added Dr. Frederica Perera, the study's Principal Investigator and Director of the Center.
Researchers from the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health studied 303 pregnant Dominican and African-American women, all nonsmokers, who were enrolled as part of a large prospective cohort study following mothers and their children for several years after delivery to examine effects of environmental pollutants. The researchers measured each woman's prenatal exposure to airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) through personal air monitors and questionnaires, and distributed additional periodic questionnaires to monitor the children's respiratory health. Study results show that children exposed prenatally to PAHs and postnatally to ETS were more likely to cough and wheeze at 12 months of age and experienced more difficulty breathing, as well as higher incidences of asthma symptoms, at 24 mo
Contact: Jennifer Stawarz
American College of Chest Physicians