Air pollution affects thyroid development in fetuses, USC research finds

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Soot and dust in smoggy cities alter thyroid development in fetuses, raising concern about health impacts later in life, new USC research shows.

It means that before a doctor cuts the umbilical cord or a parent hugs a baby, the caress of air pollution already reached the womb’s inner sanctum. The timing couldn’t be worse, as the researchers found that no matter when they checked, thyroid impacts were evident until the final month of gestation.

This is one of the few studies to monitor air pollution effects on a developing fetus and the first to track pollution changes month by month on thyroid hormones. The newly published research paper appears in JAMA Network Open.

“Air pollution is bad for adults and children and this study shows it may be bad for the fetus too, despite being protected in the womb,” said Carrie Breton, corresponding author of the study and associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “Thyroid function is important for lots of elements of life and tweaking that in utero may have lifelong consequences.”

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By Gary Polakovic