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Prenatal Exposure to Traffic Pollution May Lead to Asthma

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

Exposure to traffic pollution in the womb may cause genetic changes that increase a child’s risk of developing asthma say U.S. researchers.

The researchers studied the umbilical cord blood from New York City children and found evidence of a possible biomarker, which is an alteration in the gene ACSL3 which is associated with prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAH is created as byproducts of incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels such as gasoline.

PAH levels are high in heavy-traffic areas and exposure to PAHs has been linked to such diseases as cancer and childhood asthma.

The findings are published in the February 16, 2009 issue of PLoS One. They offer a potential clue for predicting environmentally-related asthma in children, particularly to those born to mothers who live in high-traffic areas said the researchers.

“Understanding early predictors of asthma is an important area of investigation because they represent potential clinical targets for intervention,” study co-author Dr. Rachel Miller, director of the asthma project at Mailman’s Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, said in a news release.

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