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Second-hand Smoke, Urban Pollutants Harm Fetuses


Combined prenatal exposure to second-hand smoke and combustion-related pollutants, at levels currently found in New York City, adversely affects the size and weight of newborns, according to a study by the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health, part of the Mailman School of Public Health.

The research involved a sample of 226 infants of nonsmoking African-American and Dominican women in Washington Heights, Central Harlem and the South Bronx. The study examined the effect of prenatal exposure to two common urban pollutants on fetal growth: second-hand smoke, which contains hundreds of chemicals, and combustion-related pollutants from car, truck, or bus engines, residential heating and power generation.

The researchers compared those infants whose mothers lived during pregnancy in households where an active smoker was present with those whose mothers did not. The study found that babies with both prenatal exposure to second-hand smoke and urban air pollutants had about a 7 percent reduction in birth weight and about a 3 percent reduction in head circumference. The results of the study will be published in the April issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

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Published: Mar 11, 2004
Last modified: Jan 10, 2005

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