Children exposed to higher levels of ambient air pollution during the third trimester of pregnancy may have a higher risk of elevated blood pressure in childhood, according to new research published in Hypertension.
The study included 1,293 mothers and their children who were part of the large, ongoing Boston Birth Cohort study. Blood pressure was measured at each childhood physical examination at three and nine years. Systolic blood pressure was considered elevated if it was in the highest 10 per cent for children the same age on national data. Ambient particulate matter ≤2.5μm (PM2.5) concentration was estimated by matching the mother’s residential address to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality monitors.
The authors found children exposed to higher levels (top tertile) of ambient fine-particulate pollution in utero during the third trimester were 61 per cent more likely to have elevated systolic blood pressure in childhood compared to those exposed to the lowest tertile. The mother’s fine-particulate matter exposure before pregnancy was not associated with higher blood pressure in her offspring.
“If further confirmed, our findings provide new insight into early life origins of high blood pressure and opportunities for early screening and primary prevention of hypertension in childhood and beyond,” the authors said.