Women who live near busy roads could find themselves unable to have children sooner than their countryside counterparts.
Blood tests used to identify women with a low ‘reserve’ of eggs found almost two-thirds of them lived in areas exposed to high pollution from traffic fumes and industry.
Experts now believe pollution speeds up ageing in women, just like smoking, meaning they run out of eggs faster. This could leave them unable to have children if they put off trying until their late 30s or early 40s.
When tiny pollution particles are inhaled they get into the bloodstream, which allows them to reach the ovaries. They can damage the cells protecting eggs, causing them to die. Professor Antonio La Marca, of the University of Modena, who led the research, said: ‘Air pollution can be seen as a reproductive disadvantage. I would suggest women think twice where they live.’
The study, presented at the annual meeting of the European Society Of Human Reproduction And Embryology in Vienna, tested the blood of more than 1,300 women for a hormone that can identify those with few eggs left to get pregnant.
Researchers then looked at the air quality around where the women lived. In places with high levels of nitrogen dioxide, which comes principally from diesel cars and industry, women were more than three times more likely to have a low ovarian reserve of eggs. When the study looked at tiny pollution particles called PM10 and PM2.5s, areas with high levels were home to almost two-thirds of the women with low egg levels.
The pollution levels fell below those judged harmful by the EU.
Richard Anderson, professor of clinical reproductive science at the University of Edinburgh, said: ‘While this does not suggest a short-term problem for women trying to fall pregnant, it might indicate that women exposed to high levels of pollution might have a shorter opportunity to achieve a family.’
Nick Macklon, medical director of London Women’s Clinic, said: ‘This is something women should be mindful of, if they are exposed to pollution day in, day out.’Daily Mail