Pregnant women concerned over the effects of bad air quality

Doctor says breathing polluted air can cause the same problems as smoking

SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) - As the Wasatch Front endured its second consecutive Red Air day Wednesday, some wonder about the harm pollution is causing pregnant women and their unborn children.

Former TV news reporter Kimberly Flores and her husband are expecting their first child and she says the polluted air is affecting her.

"If I'm already feeling bad two days into the inversion, the bad air. What's it doing to my baby?" Flores asked.

Dr. Denitza Blagev is a pulmonologist at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray.

"Pregnancy is one of those times in our lives where we seem to be particularly susceptible to things, including air quality," Dr. Blagev told News4Utah. "The effects we worry about are similar to what we might worry about with somebody smoking... Prematurity or there may be increased risk of infant mortality but the problem with talking about them in general is it's less obvious what the attributable risk is."

Flores, who works in downtown Salt Lake City, worries with every breath she takes, especially about the effects of particulate matter 2.5 microns or smaller, known as PM 2.5.

"What we know about PM 2.5 is it passes through the lungs," Flores said. "It's so small it passes through the lungs into the bloodstream and this is the bloodstream I'm sharing with my growing baby. It needs it to create its brain, its lungs and all its vital organs...There are studies out there that show it can cause autism, obviously developmental disorders."

Flores is now working from home as much as possible in an effort to stay indoors and to keep one less polluting car off the freeways.

So what can pregnant women do to minimize the risks?  Dr. Blagev says stay indoors as much as possible especially when exercising and make sure you change your furnace air filters often.

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