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Air pollution linked to birth defects in San Joaquin Valley, study says

March 28, 2013|By Anna Gorman
  • A layer of smog sits above the San Joaquin Valley in this early-morning view from Beetle Rock in Sequoia National Park.
A layer of smog sits above the San Joaquin Valley in this early-morning view… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

Researchers have linked air pollution and birth defects among pregnant women in the San Joaquin Valley, according to a study by Stanford University School of Medicine.

The study looked at women between 1997 and 2006, including 806 whose pregnancies were impacted by birth defects and 849 not impacted. Researchers determined that the women who spent their early weeks of pregnancy living in areas with worse air pollution had a higher risk of having a birth defect in their babies.

Women who breathed the highest levels of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide were more likely to have a baby with a spinal column problem or an underdeveloped brain, according to the study.

Researchers said the study, which appears online in the American Journal of Epidemiology, is unique because it focused on where women lived early in pregnancy when birth defects develop.

The issue attracted attention in recent years after nearly a dozen babies in Kettleman City were born with birth defects, including three who died. Public health officials investigated but could not determine what was causing the defects. They ruled out a nearby toxic waste dump.


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