Air pollution during pregnancy tied to high blood pressure in kids

(Reuters Health) – Women who breathe polluted air during pregnancy may be more likely to have children who develop high blood pressure, a U.S. study suggests.

Researchers focused on what’s known as fine particulate matter, or PM 2.5, a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter that’s found in traffic exhaust and can include dust, dirt, soot, and smoke.

They examined data on 1,293 mother-child pairs and assessed kids’ blood pressure at checkups from ages 3 to 9 years. When they sorted children into three groups from highest to lowest levels of exposure to PM 2.5 in the womb, children in the highest-exposure group were 61 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than kids with the lowest exposure.

“We believe that when pregnant women breathe air with high levels of fine particulate matter, it causes an inflammatory response that alters genetic expression and fetal growth and development, on the pathway to high blood pressure in childhood,” said study co-author Noel Mueller of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

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