While it's important for everyone to protect themselves against the harmful effects of pollution, pregnant women should take special care to limit the amount of toxins they are exposed to, in order to protect their children's health. Exposure to unwanted organisms in the womb may have lasting effects on babies, since their developing bodies are more susceptible to toxins.
For example, a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that exposure to ambient urban air pollution during the late stages of pregnancy may cause babies to have lower vitamin D levels than children who were not around these toxins.
This is concerning, considering that vitamin D is an essential nutrient that may boost bone health. Inadequate levels of this vitamin have been associated with an increased risk for a number of health problems, which is why it's important to identify anything that negatively affects this nutrient concentration in the body.
Previous research has shown that exposure to air pollution may affect vitamin D levels in adults and children, but this study was the first to explore the effect of toxins on vitamin D levels in babies still in the womb.
"Our findings show for the first time, that exposure to ambient air pollution comparable to current World Health Organization standards might contribute to [low vitamin D levels] in newborns," said researcher Nour Baiz of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris.
According to Family Education, there are many things women can do to reduce their exposure to toxins. For example, they should avoid jogging or walking on roads with heavy traffic, steer clear of places where people smoke, stay indoors on "smog alert" days and check the exhaust system in their car for leaks.