Archive for the ‘On Unborn Babies’ Category

UPDATE 12/17/2013: This post has been updated with two more studies, making a total of four pioneering studies on the association between autism and prenatal air pollution exposure.

A child could carry a gene for autism and show no signs of it unless that gene was triggered by exposure to polluted air, according to research led by scientists at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

Our research shows that children with both the risk genotype and exposure to high air pollutant levels were at increased risk of autism spectrum disorder compared to those without the risk genotype and lower air pollution exposure. —Heather E. Volk, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor of research in preventive medicine and pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and principal investigator at The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, ScienceDaily.com article 12/2/2013

Heather E. Volk, PhD, MPH, and Daniel B. Campbell, PhD

The researchers found air pollution may compromise the healthy functioning of a child’s brain and immune system leading to autism in those who inherited a particular gene.

“This is the first demonstration of a specific interaction between a well-established genetic risk factor and an environmental factor that independently contribute to autism risk. The MET gene variant has been associated with autism in multiple studies, controls expression of MET protein in both the brain and the immune system, and predicts altered brain structure and function,” according to Daniel B. Campbell, PhD, Assistant Professor of psychiatry and the behavioral sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the study’s senior author. Keck School of Medicine article 12/2/2013

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disability characterized by problems with social interaction, communication and repetitive behaviors. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 50 children in the United States has an ASD. Forbes 3/20/2013 and Center for Disease Control autism fact sheet 3/20/2013

Previously, health studies have shown significant associations between exposure to fine particulate pollution (PM 2.5) and premature death from heart and lung disease. PM 2.5 pollution can aggravate heart and lung diseases and has been linked to effects including cardiovascular symptoms; cardiac arrhythmias; heart attacks; strokes; blood clots; diabetes; chemical sensitivity; asthma attacks; respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia; COPD; chronic bronchitis; low birth weight; and reduced IQ.

The study, “Autism spectrum disorder: Interaction of air pollution with the MET receptor tyrosine kinase gene,” was published in the January 2014 edition of Epidemiology, available here.

An earlier study, perhaps the first national study to associate autism with air pollution, was published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences journal Environmental Health Perspectives 8/2013, available here. This NIEHS study was covered by Autism Speaks.

Two related studies:

Becerra T, Wilhelm M, Olsen J, Cockburn M, Ritz B. Ambient Air Pollution and Autism in Los Angeles County, California. Environ Health Perspect 121:380–386 (3/2013). http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1205827 [Online 12/18/2012.]

Volk H, Lurmann F, Penfold B, Hertz-Picciotto I, McConnell R. Traffic-Related Air Pollution, Particulate Matter, and Autism. JAMA Psychiatry 2013;70(1):71-77. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.266. http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1393589 [Online 12/2012.]

Thanks to North Pole Clean Air for publicizing the connection between autism and air pollution and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment for sharing the two related studies.


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Doctors advise waiting or getting out of Utah’s bad air to conceive. The same goes double in Fairbanks and North Pole where particulate concentrations are far higher for many more days than in Utah.

You wouldn’t smoke cigarettes when you’re pregnant. Don’t breathe polluted air either.

A group of doctors points to studies showing that exposure to PM 2.5, as in Utah during inversions, may lower birth weight.

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 Brian Moench, anesthesiologist and president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. Better yet, he says, “get out of Salt Lake City to conceive.”

The docs were responding to the recent release of a massive multi-country, 3-million-birth study that showed the risk of having a baby of low birth weight — meaning less than 5 lbs. 8 oz. — jumps 10 percent for each 10 μg/m3 increase in fine particulate matter (PM 2.5). The risk was calculated for exposure during the entire pregnancy and adjusted for maternal socioeconomic status.

Why is low birth weight a concern?

“Babies who are born too small for their gestational age are at increased risk of a variety of morbidity outcomes either during infancy or during childhood—things like increased risk of infection, they could be at risk of neurodevelopmental problems later in childhood, and now we know from very interesting research that even the effects that occur early in gestation, which may be manifested through observing this low birth weight, can also be a marker for increased risk of adult disease—so, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, increased risk of diabetes and other types of metabolic disorders.” — Tracey Woodruff, researcher, Center for Reproductive Health and the Environment, University of California–San Francisco, San Francisco, California

Links to the study and news coverage:

Maternal Exposure to Particulate Air Pollution and Term Birth Weight: A Multi-Country Evaluation of Effect and Heterogeneity

3 million births, 14 centers from 9 countries, 29 researchers, 95% confidence interval

An Unlikely Duo: Air Pollution’s Link to Low Birth Weight, interview with one of the researchers – Tracey Woodruff [podcast] [transcript]

Global Push: Multicontinent Project Assesses Particulate Matter and Birth Weight 3/1/2013 Environmental Health Perspectives

Docs: Wait – or get out of Utah’s bad air – to conceive 2/15/2013 Salt Lake Tribune

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Steese Highway Plume, taken 1/8/2011

Coal Smoke Reaches Home Depot from Steese Highway Plume, taken 1/8/2011

Air pollution increases chances of low birth-weight babies The Guardian Feb 6, 2013

New international study of 3 million term births links particulate pollution with up to 10% higher risk of having a low birth-weight baby.

Low birth-weight babies face an increased risk of dying in infancy, as well as chronic poor health and impaired mental development.

>> Link: Maternal Exposure to Particulate Air Pollution and Term Birth Weight: A Multi-Country Evaluation of Effect and Heterogeneity, Environmental Health Perspectives, Feb 6, 2013

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After seven days of air pollution reaching 130 micrograms/cubic meter, Salt Lake City is breathing better today. Fine particulate pollution, sometimes called “soot” or PM 2.5, dropped to under 12 micrograms/cubic meter at 9 pm today. An improvement.

Link: Watch Salt Lake City’s PM 2.5 levels real-time

It was 7-day public health crisis. The community, doctors, regulators, the media responded:

Apparently, EPA had something to say about the air pollution crisis in Salt Lake City:

“The level of pollution in the city is now the highest in America according to the Environmental Protection Agency and medical experts are now urging residents to stay indoors.” 1-24-2013 Daily Mail, UK

Has EPA forgotten about North Pole? Just when Salt Lake is out of the smoke, North Pole gets smoked out again. Yesterday, Jan 27, 2013, the 24-hour average at the North Pole Fire Station was 130 micrograms/cubic meter, the third reading that high so far in January 2013. More chilling, yesterday the monitor recorded hourly PM 2.5 levels of 386 micrograms/cubic meter and 423. Top that Salt Lake! Today, at 8 pm, the Fire Station is on track to exceed a daily average of 130.

While some may relish winning a contest for most polluted air, it isn’t smart or safe to be in the running. Based on 2012 levels, North Pole is well positioned for worst air in the nation last year.

Link: 48 Days of Smoke in Rectangle of Death AK 99705 [Graph]

Has anyone else noticed the vacuum of agency statements about the air pollution in North Pole? EPA noticed Salt Lake’s major smoke crisis but has said not a word about what keeps happening to North Pole. Is it because Alaska is “off the map” and therefore doesn’t exist?

Link: AirNow map of the US

Alaska DEC hasn’t said a word other than issuing an endless series of Air Quality Advisories they choose not to enforce. The Mayor of the Borough and Mayor of North Pole, not one word. Division of Public Health – mute. School board – silent.Pregnant women, children, our elders, and other breathing residents don’t deserve to be forgotten just because they live in North Pole, Alaska. Public health warnings need to be issued, and heeded.

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[Update 6/27/11: Veto Still Possible–  July 1 is the date by which Governor Parnell must make his decision on whether or not to veto all or part of the $3 million for the Borough’s stove change-out program, see Bill History for SB 46. If you haven’t yet contacted the Governor, do it now.]

Don’t let Governor Parnell veto the $3 million in the Capital Budget for the Borough’s stove change-out program. 

Governor Sean Parnell is currently weighing vetoes of $400 million from the $3.2 billion Capital Budget. Governor Parnell is using a number of factors to evaluate which projects to cut. His first priority is to keep those that address “life and safety concerns.” 

The stove change-out program is vital to help reduce winter fine particulate (PM 2.5) air pollution. Residents have reported hundreds of life and safety concerns from smoke pollution in recent years. Read it here: 230 Reports of Life and Safety Impacts from PM 2.5 Pollution PDF [563KB]

Make no mistake, our winter smoke pollution is a pressing life and safety concern for residents of our community.

Alert: Cut Smoke, Not Smoke Relief!

Call the Governor’s office today: 451-2920

What to say:

  • I live in (e.g: Fairbanks, North Pole, Moose Creek) where winter PM 2.5 pollution has harmed me. (Describe how smoke has affected your life and safety.)
  • To protect my life and safety, the FNSB stove change-out program is vital.
  • I support budget responsibility, but protecting the life and safety of residents and visitors must be a top priority.
  • Please don’t veto the FNSB stove change-out funding from the Capital Budget.

Follow-up with an email to Governor Sean Parnell <governor@alaska.gov>.

CC the Interior Delegation, the Assembly, and Mayor Luke Hopkins

Please CC or BCC <cleanairfairbanks@gmail.com>. Thank you!


$3 million for “Fairbanks North Star Borough – Wood Stove Conversion Program” is in the Capital Budget bill, House CS for CS for Senate Bill No. 46 (FIN), page 31.  

Senate Bill 46 has not yet been transmitted to the Governor. Track SB 46’s current status here. Once transmitted, the Governor has 20 days to veto or sign a bill. If not vetoed or signed, the bill automatically becomes law. 

The Governor is currently weighing his choices and may finalize some decisions as soon as the Capital Budget bill reaches his desk. Read more: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Parnell’s budget plans may mean $400 million in vetoes, 5/26/2011. 

The Borough Assembly has begun to consider changes to the stove change-out program including expanding current limitations on eligibility. Read more: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Commission recommends more funding for Fairbanks’ wood stove program, 5/26/2011.

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The Following letter was sent by Clean Air Fairbanks to Governor Sean Parnell. Please send your own, see post: Cut Smoke, Not Smoke Relief: Don’t Let Governor Veto Stove Change-out Funds.

June 1, 2011

Governor Sean Parnell <governor@alaska.gov>
675 7th Avenue, Suite H5
Fairbanks, AK  99701-4596
Phone: 451-2920

Dear Governor Parnell:

This is a request for your support for the Fairbanks North Star Borough stove change-out program. House CS for CS for Senate Bill No. 46 (FIN), page 31 includes $3,000,000 for “Fairbanks North Star Borough – Wood Stove Conversion Program.” This program was the headline article in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner May 26, 2011: Commission recommends more funding for Fairbanks’ wood stove program

According to another article in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner May 26, 2011, Parnell’s budget plans may mean $400 million in vetoes, you are seeking to make cuts to the Capital Budget. The article cited a number of factors you intend to use in evaluating projects. The first of these factors were projects that address “life and safety concerns.”

Protecting life and safety must be a state priority. The stove change-out program is needed to help reduce winter fine particulate (PM 2.5) air pollution which has worsened in our community since 2007. This program is running out of money. Current applications are on hold due to limited funds. The addition of $3,000,000 would allow these and new applications to be approved and the highly polluting stoves removed.

Residents have documented the connection between air pollution and concerns for life and safety. Please consider the attached 230 reports of life and safety impacts from PM 2.5 pollution logged by Fairbanks North Star Borough. There can be no doubt that the high concentrations of PM 2.5 pollution in our community constitute a life and safety concern to residents.

Use every available tool to reduce PM 2.5 pollution to safe levels as rapidly as possible. Please do not veto these critically needed funds. 


Clean Air Fairbanks


Representative Bob Miller <Representative_Bob_Miller@legis.state.ak.us>
Representative David Guttenberg <Representative_David_Guttenberg@legis.state.ak.us>
Representative Scott Kawasaki <Representative_Scott_Kawasaki@legis.state.ak.us>
Representative Steve Thompson <Representative_Steve_Thompson@legis.state.ak.us>
Representative Tammie Wilson <Representative_Tammie_Wilson@legis.state.ak.us>
Senator Joe Thomas <Senator_Joe_Thomas@legis.state.ak.us>
Senator Joe Paskvan <Senator_Joe_Paskvan@legis.state.ak.us>
Senator John Coghill <Senator_John_Coghill@legis.state.ak.us>
Fairbanks North Star Assembly <assembly@co.fairbanks.ak.us>
Mayor Luke Hopkins <mayor@fnsb.us>

230 Reports of Life and Safety Impacts from PM 2.5 Pollution PDF [478KB], May 2008 to May 2011

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Residents  in our community have reported 230 life and safety impacts from smoke pollution from May 2008 to May 2011.

Read the report: 230 Reports of Life and Safety Impacts from PM 2.5 Pollution PDF [563KB]

Residents are pleading for relief from the smoke. Appeals from teachers on behalf of their students, mothers for their infants and unborn babies, parents for their children, adults for their older parents, husbands for their wives, wives for their husbands, and neighbors caring for one another. It is impossible to read the complaints and ignore the deep compassion for those who are suffering and desperate appeals for help. This community loves and cares for one another and responds when others are hurting.

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