Friday, April 10, 2009

Traffic pollution can harm babies in the womb, claim researchers

Ho hum! This claim is a hardy perennial and so is the poor quality of the evidence that it is based on. Polluted areas are less prestigious and therefore cheaper and therefore inhabited by losers generally. And the findings bore that out. The researchers observed and rightly controlled for a lot of these "loser" characteristics in their sample -- but it seems likely that they did not get them all -- drug abuse, for instance. The cause of the less healthy babies is in the nature of losers (more risky behaviour etc.) -- not in the pollution

Exposure to traffic pollution during pregnancy could harm babies in the womb, a study shows. The risk of a delivering a baby of small weight rose significantly with each increase in pollution levels during the first three months and final three months of pregnancy. Researchers believe restricted fetal growth may be linked to traffic pollution or living close to a major road.

Epidemiologist Professor David Rich, of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and colleagues said it was unclear how air pollution restricts fetal growth. Previous research suggests air pollution might alter cell activity - or cut the amount of oxygen and nutrients a baby receives while in the womb.

Prof Rich, whose findings are published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, said: "A body of evidence is emerging from several countries on the adverse consequences of ambient air pollution on fetal/birth outcomes, including pre-term birth and fetal growth restriction."

The researchers based their findings on almost 336,000 births in New Jersey between 1999 and 2003 and daily readings of air pollution from monitoring points around the state from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Mothers of small, and very small birth weight babies were more likely to be younger, less well educated, of African-American ethnicity, smokers, poorer, and single parents than mothers with normal birth weight babies. But levels of ambient air pollutants were linked to restricted fetal growth, even after taking account of these risk factors.

Prof Rich said: "These findings suggest ambient air pollution, perhaps specifically traffic emissions during early and late pregnancy and/or factors associated with residence near a roadway during pregnancy, may affect fetal growth.

"Further, pregnancy complications may increase susceptibility to these effects in late pregnancy."


Gwyneth Paltrow's Shampoo Cancer Link Claim Dismissed By Scientists

Another addled-brain "celebrity".

Gwyneth Paltrow has come under fire from health experts after she warned shampoo could be linked to cancer. Writing on her website, The Shakespeare In Love star explains her concerns arose after she read research about what she calls "environmental toxins", which are found in products such as shampoo and lotion. Paltrow claims that these toxins could be linked to a rise in diseases such as asthma and cancer in children, and warns pregnant women to be careful.

She writes, "Fetuses, infants and toddlers are basically unable to metabolize toxins the way adults are, and we are constantly filling our environment with chemicals that may or may not be safe."

However, leading bacteriologist Professor Hugh Pennington has slammed her claims, describing them as "loopy." He says, "It does annoy me when celebrities use their position to spout nonsense. They have a perfect right to their views, even if they are loopy, but they do hold a position of influence."

Other experts at British charity Cancer Research UK have also dismissed Paltrow's theories, claiming there is no evidence to support her assertion that childhood cancer rates had increased "exponentially."


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