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Highways affect newborns' health - Montreal Gazette

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  • Christopher Miller
    From the Montreal Gaxette, July 31 2008: http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=4761b5a6-6d1f-499f-8808-69edc984a53b
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 31, 2008
      From the Montreal Gaxette, July 31 2008:



      Highways affect newborns' health
      Affluent women more likely to deliver prematurely: study
      JULIA KILPATRICK, The Gazette
      Published: 6 hours ago
      Pregnant women living near highways on the island of Montreal -
      particularly women from affluent neighbourhoods - are more likely to
      deliver preterm, low-weight or small babies, researchers say.
      The odds of delivering a low-weight infant are 81 per cent higher than
      average for expectant mothers living in high-
      income neighbourhoods within 200 metres of highways, according to a
      report published in the August edition of the Journal of Epidemiology
      and Community Heath. Affluent women also are 58 per cent more likely
      to deliver early compared with women who don't live near an expressway.
      "At the beginning, we thought that low-income mothers would be more
      susceptible to pollution from highways, so we were quite surprised,"
      said Dr. Mélissa Généreux, lead author of the study. Généreux is a
      public health resident at the Université de Montréal-affiliated
      Maisonneuve-Rosemount Hospital, and she has a hypothesis to explain
      the unexpected results.
      "Mothers in low-income neighbourhoods are often exposed to other risk
      factors during their pregnancies," said Généreux, explaining that
      those women are more likely to smoke, have poor nutrition, be exposed
      to domestic violence or have less access to prenatal care.
      Women from more privileged backgrounds may not have developed as high
      a tolerance to toxins, Généreux said, so poor air quality would have a
      more profound effect during pregnancy.
      The study also found that overall, well-educated, affluent women are
      less likely to have problematic pregnancies, but pollution appears to
      have a more acute effect on them.
      For all women, regardless of social status, living close to a highway
      increased the odds of a low-weight birth by 17 per cent and preterm
      delivery by 14 per cent.
      The results of the study were disconcerting to Caroline Millette, 29,
      who lives in a middle-class neighbourhood in Mascouche near the
      intersection of Highways 640 and 25. She gave birth to her daughter
      Léanne three months ago, almost two years after her firstborn, Camille.
      Both girls were born a month prematurely.
      "We thought it was a coincidence," Millette said. "I paid careful
      attention during my pregnancy. ... If I hadn't taken so many
      precautions, maybe my children would have been sick."
      In the study, researchers examined data on close to 100,000 live
      births recorded from 1997 to 2001 in the Quebec birth registry, which
      includes information on mothers' education.
      They compared those records to 2001 census data on the proportion of
      residents below the low-income threshold to determine the
      socioeconomic status of each neighbourhood and individual.
      Highways were identified as major roadways with posted speed limits of
      at least 70 kilometres per hour, and exposure to highway pollution was
      determined by previous studies.
      According to Généreux, exposure to pollution during pregnancy may
      impair fetus growth as toxins may be absorbed and exchanged through
      the placenta. Pollution has also been shown to increase maternal
      susceptibility to infection and respiratory problems.
      Previous research conducted in Montreal and elsewhere has identified
      various illnesses that arise from living too close to the highway or
      in areas with low air quality.
      A study in Taiwan found a correlation between exposure to pollution
      and adverse birth outcomes, while studies in Los Angeles link high
      traffic density with increased low-weight and preterm births among
      poor women.
      The study, titled "Neighbourhood socioeconomic status, maternal
      education and adverse birth outcomes among mothers living near
      highways," was a joint project between the Université de Montréal and
      the University of South Australia.



      Christopher Miller
      Montreal QC Canada

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