International research on the effects of in utero exposure to air pollutants on child growth and development, asthma, and cancer risk.
Introduction: The Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health is conducting international longitudinal molecular epidemiologic research on the health effects of in utero[r] and postnatal exposures to common urban pollutants. Methods: The Northern Manhattan (NM) Study[r] examines respiratory health, development, and cancer risk in 700 children prenatally exposed to common air pollutants from fuel burning, environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), residential pesticides, indoor allergens, lead and mercury. The World Trade Center (WTC) Study in NYC is assessing the effects of air pollutants released by the destruction of the WTC on fetal growth, respiratory health, and cognitive development in 329 newborns whose mothers were pregnant on 9/11/01. The Study in Krakow, Poland assesses the same pollutants (except pesticides) and health outcomes as the NM study, among over 400 children in Krakow, a city with high levels of combustion-generated pollutants from coal burning. The Study in China examines the effects of in utero exposure to air pollutants in Chongqing where a coal burning power plant was located. Two sets of pregnant women and their newborns have been enrolled into the study: the first before the plant was shut down, the second after closure. Results: In the NM study, prenatal exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, (PAHs), ETS and pesticides were associated with significantly reduced fetal growth, neurocognitive delay and/or attentional deficits, increased chromosomal aberrations in cord blood, and increased risk of asthma. In the WTC study, babies born to women living within 1-2 miles of the WTC in the weeks after 9/11 had significantly lower birth weight and length than babies born to women living further away. The levels of PAH-DNA adducts, and certain halogenated compounds were also elevated in maternal and/or cord blood among residents living close to the WTC site. The Krakow study and the other two cohorts show genetic damage from PAHs (PAH-DNA adducts) in umbilical cord blood was about 10-fold higher than maternal adducts per estimated unit of exposure, indicating heightened fetal susceptibility. PAHs in prenatal air were linked to decreased fetal growth and asthma symptom, as in the NM study. The Study in China has found adverse effects on fetal and child growth and development related to exposure to power plant emissions and is determining the longer-term health benefits to children of eliminating in utero exposure to these toxic air pollutants. Conclusion: These studies have demonstrated multiple effects of prenatal exposures in different populations and across a gradient of exposure.
Pregnancy; Children; Prenatal-exposure; Risk-factors; Risk-analysis; Exposure-levels; Exposure-assessment; Biological-monitoring; Health-hazards; Health-surveys; Blood-analysis; Blood-sampling; Statistical-analysis; Risk-factors; Environmental-exposure; Tobacco-smoke; Lead-compounds; Mercury-compounds; Polychlorinated-aromatic-hydrocarbons; Teratogens; Genotoxic-effects