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Air pollution exposure during pregnancy linked with asthma risk

VANCOUVER, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- Babies born to mothers exposed to air pollution from traffic during pregnancy have an increased risk of developing asthma before the age of six, according to new research by scholars from University of British Columbia based in Vancouver in west Canada.

The leading author of the research, Hind Sbihi, from UBC' s School of Population and Public Health, said on Tuesday that their study results highlight the danger of exposure to pollution while babies are still in the womb.

"Air pollution from traffic sources increased the risk of developing asthma during early years before children reach school age, even in an urban area like Vancouver with relatively low levels of air pollution," Hind said in a statement.

Over 65,000 children in Metro Vancouver were included in the study, one of the largest of its kind, and followed from birth until age 10.

Researchers monitored physician-diagnosed asthma cases and also assessed the mother' s exposure to air pollutants during pregnancy. The measurements focused mainly on traffic-related pollutants, including black carbon, fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and nitric oxide.

The findings revealed that children whose mothers lived close to highways during pregnancy had a 25 percent increased relative risk of developing asthma before the age of five.

"We also found that children born to older mothers were at higher risk of being impacted by air pollution exposure. This is particularly relevant in British Columbia, as the province has the highest proportion of mothers giving birth over the age of 35 years old in Canada," said Sbihi.

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