Does air pollution cause asthma? Research shows that traffic pollution can not only reduce IQ ratings of unborn children, but it can also cause asthma before children are even born. According to a study of pregnant women, pollution can actually alter the genes in unborn children, leading to asthma.
Does Air Pollution Cause Asthma? Some Research Says ‘Yes’
The study, published in the PLoS ONE journal, examined the cord blood from children exposed to various levels of polycyclic-aromatic-hydrocarbons (PAHs) while in the womb. PAHs are chemicals commonly found in traffic fumes.
The pregnant mothers wore sensory devices that detected the levels of PAHs in the air throughout their pregnancy. Looking at the cord blood of the babies, fifty-six children had experienced a genetic “reprogramming” that is associated with asthma at age five. Experts say this is the first time that pollution has been shown to alter or influence genes, according to the BBC.
The researchers found a significant association between chemical changes which control activation of the gene and high levels of maternal PAH exposure. And although the finding needs to be confirmed in larger studies, researchers say changes in the ACSL3 gene may be help early diagnosis of pollution-related asthma.
A genetic “reprogramming” doesn’t alter the structure of genes; it is not considered a mutation, but it does change how the genes behave. And this is cause for concern.
“Our data support the concept that environmental exposures can interact with genes during key developmental periods to trigger disease onset later in life, and that tissues are being reprogrammed to become abnormal later,” said Dr Shuk-mei Ho, study leader and director of the Center for Environmental Genetics at the University of Cincinnati.
The researchers point out that pollution is a common aggravator of asthma but has not been proven as a definite cause of the lung disorder.
With each car, we add a little more toxicity to the air we breathe, and we can’t be surprised that these pollutants would eventually affect our health. How this information will be used, however, remains to be seen.
While the research isn’t particularly positive, it does help by giving us one more reason to avoid pollution in any way we can. Mainstream treatments for asthma like asthma drugs are actually killing more patients than asthma itself. Killing nearly 4,000 a year, these drugs like Symbicort, Advair Diskus, Serevent Diskus, Dulera and Foradil actually warn customers on their labels that they cause an increased “risk of death from asthma problems.” Hearing this rather harsh information makes it easy to see why you should learn how to prevent asthma before turning to any questionable pharmaceuticals.