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Study: Prenatal Exposure To Air Pollution May Reduce Newborns' Skull Size

WESTWOOD ( — Pregnant women living near freeways or other places with high concentrations of air pollution may be at greater risk of delivering a baby with a smaller head, according to researchers at UCLA.

KNX 1070's Ed Mertz reports a recent study could shed new light on a possible link between air pollution and fetal growth.

Study: Prenatal Exposure To Air Pollution May Reduce Newborns' Skull Size

The findings, which are expected to be published in the April 2014 issue of the science journal Environmental Research, were collected from a survey of more than 500 pregnant women between 1993 and 1996 whose homes were located near pollution-monitoring sources.

Based on ultrasound measurements, researchers found newborns who were exposed to traffic-derived air pollution saw a reduction in the diameter of the developing fetus' skull of as much as one millimeter at approximately 19, 29 and 37 weeks gestation.

The heads of newborns exposed during late-term pregnancy were also more likely to develop slower and smaller, according to researchers.

Dr. Beate Ritz, Professor and Vice Chair of Epidemiology at UCLA, said while the difference in head size was slight compared to other babies, it remains significant enough to potentially have a lifelong impact.

"It might tell us that, actually, these children also could have some impact on their brain function, possibly on their cognition, possibly on worse outcomes," Ritz said.

Although data compiled in the study suggested evidence that the height of babies might also be impacted by pollution, Ritz said that conclusion was not yet statistically clear.

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