This was written by Heather May for The Salt Lake Tribune:
If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant, some advice on timing from a group of Utah doctors: Wait until the inversion season is over.
A growing body of research is linking air pollution to negative birth outcomes, most often prematurity, low birth weight and restricted growth in the womb.
Last week, a large study showed the risk of having a baby of low birth weight — meaning less than 5 lbs. 8 oz. — jumps 10 percent in areas with higher concentrations of particulate matter, including PM2.5. That’s the pollution that spikes in winter inversions and leads to Utah’s dubious distinction of having the worst air in the country.
That study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, used data from 3 million births in nine countries. Low birth weight is linked to problems in later childhood, including impaired intellectual ability, elevated blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
Data on pollution’s impact on pregnancy can be inconsistent, depending on the type of pollution and level and timing of exposure, according to reviews by researchers, though there seems to be consensus that PM2.5 lowers birth weight.
In summarizing similar research, clean-air advocates who are pressing Utah officials to do more to scrub the air say this:
“Try to conceive in mid- to late-spring, after the inversion is over. That probably gives [a woman] the best window of opportunity for the critical first three months [for the fetus] to develop under the least amount of pollution,” said physician Brian Moench, an anesthesiologist and president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.
Better yet, he says, “get out of Salt Lake City to conceive.”
The 260-member physician’s group says Utah’s poor air quality is a public health emergency — particularly when it comes to pregnancy