LONDON — Maternal exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide (CO) or ozone is associated with increased cardiac defects in offspring, in the first study to show a link between air pollution and fetal damage. In January 1 American Journal of Epidemiology, Ritz et al. showed that cardiac birth defects increased in a dose-related manner with increasing maternal exposure to CO or ozone during the second month of pregnancy (Am J Epidemiol 2002, 155:17-25).

The California-based study showed that women exposed to the highest levels of pollutants had nearly three times the risk of having an infant with a cardiac defect than did women living in areas with the least polluted air. As exposure during the second month of gestation increased, so did the risk of birth defects. The authors noted that the human heart begins to develop during the second month of gestation.

These findings...

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