Air Clean Up

  • Can Pollution Cause High Blood Pressure in Children?

Can Pollution Cause High Blood Pressure in Children?

Jul 01 2018 Read 1440 Times

A new study from the United States of America has found concerning links between pollution and the incidence of high blood pressure in children. Specifically, the paper concluded that the children of pregnant women exposed to elevated levels of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) were at a much higher risk of developing high blood pressure than others.

More evidence against the dangers of air pollution

Poor air quality has been cited as the fourth biggest risk to human health in the UK, behind heart disease, strokes and cancer. It has been proven to cause and exacerbate a wide variety of mental and physical complications, including negative impacts on the unborn children of pregnant mothers. As well as being linked to behavioural problems in the children, it is now also thought to provoke high blood pressure.

This latest study, published in the journal Hypertension from the American Heart Association, looked at the children of 1,239 mothers living in or around Boston, Massachusetts, aged between three and nine years old. The subjects were divided into three groups according to their mothers’ exposure to air pollution during their third trimester, with the women living in the most polluted areas exposed to PM2.5 over double the recommended “safe” limit, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Years later, the children had their blood pressure tested and those who recorded a reading in the 10% for kids of their age were deemed to suffer from high blood pressure. The study revealed that children whose mothers lived in the most polluted environments were 61% more likely to suffer from high blood pressure than those from the cleanest air environments.

A top-down approach needed to solve problems

One of the co-authors of the study, Dr Noel Mueller, stressed that the results of the study shouldn’t prompt women to move away from the affected areas, but rather take steps to limit their exposure to pollutants. This would involve rerouting commuting routes to avoid heavily polluted areas and refraining from exercise when pollution levels were particularly high.

However, experts were quick to point out that these measures cannot do anything to tackle the root cause of the problem. To make a real difference, the problem can only be addressed by governments and corporations, who must incentives to improve air quality and reduce transport-related pollution. Only this top-down approach will have a tangible effect on air quality in urban areas and beyond.

“If maternal and early life pollution exposures increase the long-term risk of high blood pressure, then reducing early-life pollution exposure through regulation and through local and regional efforts may help protect children from having higher blood pressure in childhood, and may improve long-term cardiovascular and cerebrovascular health,” Dr Diane Gold, an air pollution professor who was not involved in the study but did write an editorial on its findings.

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