Scientists have now demonstrated that air pollution can negatively impact healthy reproduction in both men and women. Evidence also points to the fact that epigenetics, the biological mechanisms that influence how genes are either turned on or off, could adversely impact not only children born now but those in future generations.
Studies reveal that air pollution can cause preterm birth and stillbirths.
The Geneva Steel Mill in Vineyard, Utah operated from 1944 to 2001, but temporarily closed in 1987. During its closure preterm births decreased in the area, but as soon as the mill reopened the number of preterm births increased. A study was published in 2018 that linked chronic and acute exposure of ground level ozone during pregnancy to an increased risk of stillbirth. Air pollution impacts on preterm birth cost $4.65 million in Utah and $26.6 billion in the US in 2010 according to a study published by Tasande and colleagues at New York University in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2016.
Air pollution adversely affects other processes of female and male reproduction.
These effects include complications of pregnancy and alterations in ova and sperm quality. Maternal health is also affected and there are long-term problems in adolescence and adult life due to fetal exposure to poor air quality. These issues can lead to cardiovascular and other chronic disease in the adult life of children born to parents exposed to air pollution.
“We cannot pass this problem off to the next generation,” said Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment Executive Director, Jonny Vasic. “There are solutions, but it starts with awareness and needs the combined effort of the community with strong political will from our leaders.”