A new study published in Australia adds more weight to the argument that an air purifier might help protect the health of unborn babies. The new study found that pregnant women living in suburbs where there was no major industrial pollution and only average local traffic pollution were giving birth to babies whose birthweight was .12 pounds lower than the average birthweight in Western Australia of 7.7 pounds. The findings were based on a study of 1800 women and were published yesterday in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.
Gavin Pereira, who headed the study, is the same epidemiologist who authored a report last year that traffic pollution in Perth, Australia, increases the risk young children having serious asthma attacks by 70 percent. Surprised by the new study which showed pollution effects in areas not heavily polluted, Pereira said the new study bears a message for builders and planners. “We need to do a lot more work on this because as researchers we can’t say the exact distance we should be building away from these roads,” he told The West Australian.
The link between air pollution and low birth weight has been established by previous studies in the United States. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found a link between high levels of carbon monoxide and particle pollution and preterm delivery, low birth weight and congenital heart defects. The UCLA researchers specifically linked residential traffic to preterm and low birth weight.
It stands to reason that an air purifier that reduces or eliminates particle pollution and gases in the air at home can offer at least some level of protection to expecting mothers.
While an air purifier at home might offer protection, choosing the wrong air purifier could make things worse. Pregnant women, and everyone else for that matter, should choose an air purifier that only uses safe technology to clean the air. That means avoiding any air purifier that generates ozone – either deliberately as a air-cleaning technique or “accidentally” as a byproduct of ionization. Although neither the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency nor the American Lung Association endorse products, both have gone out of their way to recommend against using ozone-generating air purifiers. They suggest using a mechanical air purifier that traps particles and gases with filters, not with electrical charges or ozone.
The danger of ozone is acute for pregnant women, a point clearly demonstrated in a University of Southern California report in 2005. That study showed that babies born to women who had been exposed to high levels of ozone during pregnancy are at a greater risk for being born underweight. The bottom line for expecting mothers: take heed if you live in area with even moderate traffic or industrial pollution. And consider investing in a high-performance air purifier to keep the air at home clean and healthy for both mother and baby.