PAHs, preterm births and air purifiers

The effects of air pollution on pregnant women and the risk of preterm birth has been documented in the past, as was noted in an Air Quality News entry earlier this month onair purifiers and expectant moms. The day after that post, the University of California, Los Angeles, published yet another study that should be of interest to many, including parents seeking direction on an air purifier to help protect the health of a pregnant mom and baby at home. The new study found a significant increase in preterm births among women exposed to organic carbon, elemental carbon, benzene and diesel, biomass burning and particulate pollution. The study also zeroed in on a specific type of pollutant as a leading candidate for further study and potential concern: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

PAHs are specific organic compounds (there are more than 100 variations) that results from the incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuels such as coal or gasoline. They are suspected human carcinogens, and are known to be poisonous to aquatic life as well. PAHs are a component of air pollution, and are measured at monitoring stations maintained by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They can be filtered out of the air by a high-quality air purifier such as theIQAir HealthPro Plus air purifier, which is proven to filter tiny ultrafine particles (less than 0.1 microns in diameter). That’s important because, as the UCLA study noted, PAHs “can be carried in large quantities into the body by ultrafine particles.” Experts agree that an high-quality air purifier can help. “Installing a HEPA air purifier in your home or apartment is one of the best, most proactive ways to fight off the risks of PAHs and air pollution,” says one leading air purifier site.

The UCLA study was extensive. Researchers analyzed electronic birth records for all live births in Los Angeles (California) County from June 2004 to March 2006, a total of 276,891 records. They then mapped the babies’ residential locations and narrowed the study group down based on proximity to air monitoring stations. This enabled the researchers to gather precise environmental data on the cases studied. The report also noted that while traffic pollution was the major source of PAHs to which the mothers were exposed, it was not the only source. Tobacco smoke and smoke from wood and charcoal fires contain high levels of PAHs. And charcoal-broiled foods also contain significant amounts of PAHs.

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