Medical Research Interview with:
Eva Morales, MD, PhD, MPH
Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL)
Barcelona Biomedical Research Park
Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Morales: We aimed to assess the consequences of exposure to outdoor air pollution during specific trimesters of pregnancy and postnatal lifetime periods on lung function in preschool children. We conducted a longitudinal study by using data from 620 mother-child pairs participating in the INfancia y Medio Ambiente (INMA) Project – a population-based cohort study set up in several geographic areas in Spain. We found that exposure to outdoor air pollution during the second trimester of pregnancy in particular raises the risk of harm to a child’s lung function at preschool age.
Medical Research: What was most surprising about the results?
Dr. Morales: We did not find significant associations between exposure to outdoor air pollution during early postnatal (the first year of life), recent (last 12 months) and current (last week) and lung function at preschool age.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Morales: The results highlight the importance of early-life environmental exposures acting during in utero development on programming respiratory health later in life. Prenatal respiratory health promotion and disease prevention should be in the agenda of clinicians and pregnant women to guarantee that offspring attain maximal lung function during early childhood, a critical period in lung function development. In addition, public policies to reduce exposure to traffic-related air pollution may avoid harmful effects on lung development and function with substantial public health benefits.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Morales: Future studies investigating the effect of early-life experiences on lung function during childhood should assess lung function as early as preschool age to understand the full impact on lung development and growth.
E. Morales, R. Garcia-Esteban, O. Asensio de la Cruz, M. Basterrechea, A. Lertxundi, M. D. Martinez Lopez de Dicastillo, C. Zabaleta, J. Sunyer. Intrauterine and early postnatal exposure to outdoor air pollution and lung function at preschool age. Thorax, 2014; DOI: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2014-205413