Air Pollution from Traffic May Be Causing Pregnancy Complications

Baby showers bring to mind warm fuzzy blankets, pacifiers, and newborn clothes, but should a HEPA-filter be higher up on the list? A new report from the National Toxicology Program (NTP) may have you reconsidering the impact of air pollution on pregnant women.

The report, released in December 2019, suggests that pollution from traffic increases a woman’s risk for potentially-lethal changes in blood pressure (NTP, 2019). These blood pressure disorders, also called hypertensive disorders, can cause a range of harmful complications for both mother and baby, including premature birth, low birth weight, stroke, heart failure, stillbirth, or death (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2020).

According to the study, women who live within a quarter of a mile of a major roadway or in high traffic density regions may be at an increased risk for developing hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. Brandy Beverly, the lead scientist for traffic-related air pollution (TRAP), explains “when these women were exposed to [fine particle pollutants] during their entire pregnancy, the likelihood of developing preeclampsia increased by about 50%. (Scruggs, 2020)”

The California Air Resource Board has several recommendations to reduce exposure to fine particle pollutants, or PM2.5 (California Air Resources Board, 2018). Here are some practical ideas for yourself and your loved ones:

  • Exercise away from busy roads or freeways
  • Avoid outdoor activity on unhealthy air days
  • Close windows and recirculate air when driving in traffic
  • Use a certified HEPA air purifier appropriately sized for your home

Read more online at the Environmental Factor by the National Institute for Environmental Health.


California Air Resources Board. (2018, December 27). Reduce Your Exposure to Particle Pollution. Retrieved from

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, February 5). Preeclampsia. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic:

NTP. (2019). Systematic Review of Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy. Retrieved from NTP Monograph 7.

Scruggs, S. (2020, February 5). Pregnancy hypertension risk increased by traffic-related air pollution. Retrieved from Environmental Factor:

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