Docs Say Get Out Of Utah’s Bad Air To Conceive

BY ON February 19, 2013

Pregnant woman

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


TOPICS: Motherhood, Pollution, Pregnancy, Utah

  • Airquality Australia

    Since this article was written, new studies have identified the sources Utah’s pollution. According to the Salt Lake Tribune: “Even though there might be just a few wood stoves and fireplaces pumping out smoke on northern Utah’s smoggy winter days, they are having a huge impact on air quality.

    “In fact, wood stoves and fireplaces, coupled with exhaust from cooking grills, make up the biggest contributor to the area’s winter pollution problem — roughly the same amount as all the emissions in the Salt Lake Valley from engines powered by gas and diesel”

    To repeat the words of Dr Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “If you are not a smoker, burning wood is probably the greatest threat to your health as anything that you do. But it is also a threat to your neighbors’ health, as inappropriate as blowing cigarette smoke in the face of the passenger in the seat next to you. More than likely your neighbors are less than enthusiastic about sacrificing their health for your freedom to burn wood. A civilized society would suggest they shouldn’t have to.

    We need to create that civilized society where a neighbor’s right to clean air and have healthy children is at least as important as another person’s right to burn wood.