A recent study has linked air pollution with birth defects. The researchers found that pregnant women who were exposed to the highest levels of carbon monoxide and ozone were three times more prone to give birth to children with heart defects. The risk seemed to increase when the women were exposed to these pollutants during the second month of pregnancy i.e. a period when fetal organs begin to develop. The pollutants inhaled by the mother reach the baby through the umblical cord. This may cause birth defects such as cleft palate and lip and defective heart valves.
It was also observed that females who were at increased risk of giving birth to babies with birth defects had their homes close to busy freeways. Hence, they were increasingly exposed to auto emissions and diesel exhaust. Researchers believe that the ultrafine particulate matter present in these emissions may be responsible for the health implications on pregnant women. As such particulate matter is known to cause adverse health effects like heart and lung disorder, respiratory illness, mortality and increased risk of cancer.