Infants may be 4% to 147% more likely to be admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit if their mothers were exposed to high levels of air pollution the week before they were born, depending on the type of pollution, according to a new study by National Institutes of Health researchers. While the reason is unclear, researchers theorize that pollutants may increase inflammation, leading to impaired blood vessel growth, particularly in the placenta, which supplies oxygen and nutrients to the developing fetus, NIH said. “Short-term exposure to most types of air pollutants may increase the risk for NICU admission,” said Pauline Mendola, who led the study. “If our findings are confirmed, they suggest that pregnant women may want to consider limiting their time outdoors when air quality advisories indicate unhealthy conditions.”

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