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Add it to Asthma, High Blood Pressure, and Cardiovascular Diseases
Did we need one more reason to to fight against smog? I don't think so, but we got one anyway thanks to a study to be published in Environmental Health Perspectives and covered by Discovery News. A team from the University of California, Irvine, has shown that pregnant women living within 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) of a major roadway in Los Angeles are 128% more at risk of giving birth prematurely. "Moms-to-be were also between 33 and 42 percent more likely to develop preeclampsia, an affliction characterized by high blood pressure that often forces doctors to induce premature birth in order to save mothers' lives." More details below.
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From Discovery News: "Among the most polluted parts of the country, the Port of Long Beach and southern Los Angeles County roadways are choked with traffic on a daily basis. A comparison of medical records from 81,186 single child births to air pollution levels in the area revealed that high pollution exposure raised the risk of a severely premature birth by 128 percent."
So I'm Pregnant and There's Smog Where I Live, What Should I Do?
Dr. Jun Wu, one of the main authors of the study, gives some advice. "Women living close to freeways should be careful and close their windows, or if they're in the car, close the windows and put the air conditioning on, to filter air coming into the car." and "it might be a good idea to limit your time near traffic or change when you commute so it's not during rush hour."
But we don't think that goes far enough. What we must do is reduce smog drastically, and eventually eliminate altogether. This is a big problem (and not just for pregnant women), and what we need is a big solution, not a few band aid measures like closing the windows (though by all means do these things if you can in the meantime).
What we need is a change in our transportation infrastructure, so that we have significantly fewer individual cars on the roads (replaced by modern mass transit like light-rail, bus rapid transit, separated bike paths, walkable neighborhoods, etc), and so that those that are there have much cleaner tailpipe emissions (hybrids like the AT-PZEV Prius are a step in the right direction, but we can do better).
In short: Smog must go away. Our children must read about it in history books and wonder what it was like to breathe all that crap...