As if expecting women don’t have enough to worry about, a new scientific study indicates a direct correlation between traffic noise and ambient air pollution and the health of pregnant women and their birth outcomes. Specifically, these environmental influences are proving to increase the incidences of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and low birth weights.
The study, currently ongoing at Soroka University Medical Center in collaboration with Ben Gurion University’s (BGU) Department of Public Health, investigated the relationship between traffic noise and air pollution in the vicinity of several hundred pregnant women living in Beer-Sheva. The women agreed to be interviewed in “Tipat Chalav” clinics throughout the city and at Soroka University Medical Center, where they provided data about their medical history, lifestyles and socio-demographic data. The volunteers were also asked about noise levels near their homes, rating exposure to traffic noise on a scale between 0-10 (0 – insensitivity to noise, to 10 – very sensitive to noise). The researchers used portable noise meters to record actual noise levels and concentrations of traffic air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) the Beer-Sheva. Finally, data on the course of their pregnancies and birth outcomes were collected from records at Soroka.
BGU reported that the level of sensitivity to traffic-related noise reported was independently connected to pre-eclampsia even after the standardization of factors such as obesity before pregnancy, age, fetus sex, chronic illness and the number of previous births. Examining the impact of combined exposure to traffic noise and air pollution shows that it raises the risk of developing pre-eclampsia at least fivefold when the confounding factors are neutralized.
In addition, the reported level of sensitivity to traffic noise was found to be connected to gestational diabetes, even after adjusting confounding factors such as age and obesity. Another finding was that air pollution in a residential environment negatively affects birth weight.
The team of researchers, including Professor Eyal Sheiner, Director of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Professor Natalya Bilenko (shown above), Professor Michael Friger, and Dr. Michal Ashin from BGU’s Department of Public Health, recently presented their findings at the 38th Annual Pregnancy Meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Dallas, Texas.
“We were always taught that a man is affected by his surroundings,” said Sheiner. “The research shows that traffic noise and air pollution are connected to especially worrying poor pregnancy outcomes in an industrialized environment such as our own.”
Dr. Ashin added, “Reducing environmental exposures such as transport noise and air pollution is achievable and could lead to a reduction in unwanted birth outcomes and may affect the health of pregnant women for the better.”