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California Briefing / Region

Effects of air pollution studied

June 26, 2009|Amy Littlefield

Two studies released Wednesday have linked toxic air pollution in Southern California to high cancer rates and complications with birth.

Exposure to traffic-generated pollution increased the risk of major complications and premature birth, a report published in Environmental Health Perspectives online concluded.

By measuring pregnant women's exposure to chemicals emitted by local traffic, the researchers concluded that the risk for preeclampsia, a condition that can lead to maternal and perinatal death, increased by as much as 42% at the highest exposures. The risk for "very pre-term delivery" (when the fetus is less than 30 weeks old) increased by as much as 128%.

The study was the first to look at the connection between preeclampsia and air pollution. It focused on births in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Meanwhile, an EPA study found that Los Angeles has some of the highest levels of cancer-related toxic air pollutants in the country. Cerritos registered the highest risk, with an additional 1,200 expected deaths per 1 million residents, the highest in the country and more than 33 times the national average. The statistic assumes a lifetime exposure to the chemicals.

-- Amy Littlefield

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