The Lifespan of Babies May Be Shorter Due to Air Pollution

A new study reveals that the lifespan of babies might shorter due because of air pollution. The exposure to air pollution when in the womb could trigger DNA damage. Specialists indicated that this damage was related to aging. The study reveals that the telomere shortening is affected. Telomers represent the caps at the end of each strand of DNA. They protect the chromosomes.

Telomere shortening represents one of the main causes of age-related breakdown, also being related to heart disease, premature death, cognitive decline, aging, and cancer. Scientists revealed that babies who were exposed to air pollution starting from the womb indicated to have high levels of PAH-DNA cord adducts. PAH stands for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which is a toxic component of polluted air coming from coal plants.

High levels of adducts in cord blood appear to be related to shorter telomeres. Furthermore, they are also connected with decreased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This is a protein involved in neuronal growth. Deliang Tang is a Professor at the Columbia University in the US. He argues that the length of the telomere when a baby is born will influence the risk they have to contract diseases later in adulthood.

The study was published in the journal Environment International. The team of researchers has examined the length of telomere in the umbilical cord blood for 255 newborn babies. Some of the babies were born before and others after the closure of a coal-fueling power plant in China in 2004. In May 2004, the high levels of air pollution in Tongliang forced the government to close that power plant in order to improve the health of their community.

Air pollution affects the lifespan of babies

The babies who were born before the Tongliang plant was closed indicated to have shorter telomeres compared to those born afterward. After the study, 210 out of 255 babies tested at birth were tested one more time at the age of 2. In this way, scientists wanted to see whether the length of the telomeres was indeed related to neurodevelopment problems. Researchers did not find any connection. However, this does not exclude the possibility for telomere length-related development problems at a later age.

Tang indicates that the team of scientists still needs to continue their study in order to establish the role of telomere length when it comes to the health outcomes. The fact that air pollution can have such a devastating effect on unborn babies might finally influence policymakers to change something regarding climate change. The role of coal power plants in emitting fumes in the atmosphere is unprecedented. That is why it is extremely important to tackle the environmental danger, replacing fossil fuel with a more environmentally friendly fuel or simply closing those power plants.

In this way, we would be able to protect not only our health but also the health of future generations. We know that the use of fossil fuels is not only responsible for air pollution but also for global warming, triggering millions of death every year due to weather-related events. However, in recent past, air pollution has taken a toll on our health, especially affecting the elder and the children. The new study is even more shocking since air pollution appears to affect babies as well.

A pregnant woman wearing a white blouse

The DNA of unborn babies might be damaged due to exposure to air pollution.

What to eat to protect the baby

Pregnant women are advised to change their eating habits and keep away from smog or working in polluted environments. In order to ensure a safe pregnancy, mothers-to-be should eat vitamin C rich foods. Vitamin C is one of the most important antioxidants which have the ability to aid and repair tissue growth.  This vitamin is soluble in water and can help destroy the effects of free radicals in the body.

Pregnant women should also consider consuming vitamin E rich foods. This vitamin is responsible for developing a defense mechanism, protecting the tissues from injury. At the same time, it helps to fight against the damaged tissue while also improving immunity. Hence, mothers-to-be should include more herbs and spices into their diet.

Omega-3 fats should also be part of a pregnant woman’s diet. These fatty acids are very efficient when it comes to heart health. The foods which contain omega three can fight against the harmful effects of air pollution. Therefore, mother-to-be could consume legumes, seeds and green leafy vegetables for their intake of omega-3 fats.

Magnesium rich foods can also protect the fetus, offering it strong immunity. This is a mineral which can enhance your body’s defense system, and it relaxes your lungs from excessive pressure. Figs and yogurt are some of the foods rich in magnesium. They develop a better immunity system.

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Mothers-to-be need to be careful

Frederica Perera is one of the study authors at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She is also the director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health. She indicates that this new research also adds to previous evidence regarding this coal-burning power plant. It indicates that the closing of the plant is beneficial for the future newborns and the health of the residents in the area.

Specialists indicate that many toxins in the air can harm an unborn child. For instance, if a pregnant woman works in a manufacturing plant or she leaves near one, this can increase the chances of inhaling large amounts of solvents and fumes. Therefore, pregnant women have to think of ways in which they could reduce their effect. They should either search for a new job or require to be replaced during the pregnancy.

Studies show that air pollution is related to 5.5 million out of 9million deaths caused by air pollution every year. Hence, air pollution reaches to be the main cause when it comes to death by pollution.

Summing up

The new study sheds light on the impact of air pollution on the lifespan of babies, severely impacting the length of telomeres. Air pollution has become a great concern, being responsible for the deaths of millions of people over the years. The toxins we breathe through the air are to remain in the atmosphere as we continue to use fossil fuels in numerous industries. Hence, at the moment, we contribute to the harm of the generations to come who will breathe the same toxic air.

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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