After a family member of Dr. Matthew Fuller’s had a miscarriage, the researcher at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City started thinking things over in his mind, particularly as it related to his field of emergency medicine.
The family member’s miscarriage had occurred after that individual had been in an area where air pollution had been particularly bad that year.
“That triggered the question in my mind” of whether pollution played a role in the event, he said, according to a report from the Guardian. “[T]hen I started noticing anecdotally that I was seeing spikes in miscarriage numbers in the emergency department during and after [pollution spikes].”
Fuller is part of a broader team of researchers that sought to find out whether air pollution plays a bigger role in some individuals’ miscarriages. The findings of their study were consistent with previous investigations that said air pollution, particularly from nitrogen dioxide, played a direct part in the number of miscarriages in an overly populated area.
The team’s research, however, shed new light on the matter: short-term exposure is just as bad as long-term exposure, they discovered.
Being in close proximity to air pollution, even for a short period of time, had detrimental health affects, Fuller explained.
“If you compare that increase in risk to other studies on environmental effects on the fetus, it’s akin to tobacco smoke in first trimester pregnancy loss,” he added.
Nitrogen dioxide was determined to be one of the main factors in determining which pollutants were causing more miscarriages. The chemical is common in the burning of diesel fuel, and thus is found more often in city centers and largely populated areas.
Fuller and his team of researches made suggestions in their study, including the goal of decreasing toxic chemicals into the atmosphere itself.
Beyond that, Fuller made a few more suggestions that pregnant women could undertake, including staying in the house and not exerting themselves on days when pollution levels were higher. Women could also buy indoor air filters while they’re inside on these days.
“But in the developing world these are luxuries many people can’t afford,” he added.
Air pollution is a problem that prematurely ends the lives of millions around the world each year. More than 4.2 million people die each year due to the effects of outdoor air pollution, according to statistics compiled by the World Health Organization. Another 3.8 million die from the effects of indoor air pollutants.