Link found between pre-eclampsia and pollution

This new research only adds to the growing concern of the health impact of air and noise pollution

A study has found that mothers-to-be are more at risk of developing pre-eclampsia if they are exposed to noise and pollution from roads in early pregnancy. Research by scientists in Denmark found the sound of traffic and the toxins from vehicles increases stress levels and causes inflammation that leads to rising blood pressure, commonly associated with the condition.

The research, published in the journal Epidemiology, looked at almost 73,000 women, and found that for every 10-decibel increase in noise from traffic, there was a 10% increase in the risk of pre-eclampsia and issues associated with high blood pressure. Similarly, for every 0.01 micrograms of nitric dioxide in a litre of air, the risk rose by 7%. This comes as a separate study published in the Lancet medical journal warned those who live near roads are at a significantly higher risk of developing dementia. Last month, NHS watchdog NICE called for urgent action to tackle the problem, warning air pollution contributes to 25,000 deaths a year England.

Study leader Professor Marie Pedersen, of the University of Copenhagen, said: ‘The rise in risk we saw is significant in terms of impact on a population level, as a 10-unit increase in pollution and noise is very small. Air pollution causes inflammation and oxidative stress, which has been linked to damage to blood vessels, immune system changes and elevated blood pressure.’

Rates of pre-eclampsia have been rising in recent years, affecting around 6% of pregnancies in the UK. Normally occuring in the second half of pregnancy, it can lead to problems with the flow of blood through the placenta, meaning baby doesn’t receive all the nutrients it needs for healthy growth. Symptoms include high blood pressure, swelling in the feet, face and hands, and severe headaches. As it stands, there is no cure, with some babies born early to prevent the condition from worsening.