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UC Davis Researching Impact Of Wildfire Smoke On Pregnancies

UC DAVIS (CBS13) — UC Davis researchers continue taking a closer look at the effects of October's firestorms, this time focusing on pregnant women.

They're asking expecting mothers and those with newborn babies to participate, in hopes of measuring their exposure to toxic smoke and ash.

The study is called the Bio-Specimen Assessment of Fire Effects Study. It's one of the first studies of its kind designed to explore the health impacts wildfires can have on pregnant women and their babies.

When the firestorm ripped through her Santa Rosa neighborhood, the first thing on Laurel Chambers mind was her unborn baby.

"Were there adverse health outcomes that happened as a result of this?"

So, the night that now 2-week-old Eleanor was born, UC Davis researchers were there, to collect samples in hopes of answer those questions.

"That gives us a window into pregnancy and some of those exposures," said lead researcher and UC Davis Assistant Professor Dr. Rebecca Schmidt.

With a $270,000 grant, UC Davis researchers are studying the health effects of wildfires on pregnant women and their babies by testing the mother's blood, hair and breastmilk, as well as the placenta and the cord blood of newborns.

"To see how much is getting through to the baby as they're developing," said Dr. Schmidt.

Chambers was just two months pregnant when the fires broke out.

Her house didn't burn, but she was exposed to heavy smoke and ash for weeks afterward.

"It's not like a typical wildfire with vegetation burning and it's all kinds of chemicals."

Of those chemicals, researchers are first focusing on flame retardants. comparing what's found in already collected samples of ash to what's found in mom and baby.

"So that's the big caution, you know. If we find these exposures, we really don't know what that means."

Hair samples will also be taken to look at stress levels of expecting mothers during a disaster. Chambers says her newborn daughter is healthy as can be, and wildfire or not, she hopes she stays that way."

Chambers said, "Hopefully they won't find much of anything and hopefully our bodies are really good at keeping that kind of stuff from our babies, that's my hope."

UC Davis is still looking for more participants for this study.

Any mom who was pregnant during last October's fires or expected to give birth by Oct. 31 of this year is invited to sign up.

To find out more, email or call (916) 703-0228.

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