Pollution harmful to unborn, study says

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A groundbreaking new study has shown that a mother’s exposure to pollution can have a measurable impact on the genes of her unborn child.

Scientists already knew that children living in more polluted areas had a higher chance of developing asthma, but the new research, published in the PLoS ONE journal, shows that gene ACSL3 can be effectively ‘reprogrammed’ within the developing foetus by exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in traffic exhaust.

Although further research is needed to confirm the finding, the study has been hailed as an important step in the understanding of ‘epigenetic’ changes, where genes are directly altered by environmental factors.

This article first appeared in the Ecologist April 2009