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.’