A team of researchers speaking at the latest meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (i.e. April 6-10, Washington DC) maintain that air pollution toys with the health of infants while they are still in the womb.
More precisely, these specialists claim that, according to their investigations, children to have been exposed to high levels of air pollution during the pregnancy period are more likely to develop specific types of pediatric cancer.
The three pediatric cancers targeted by this research were as follows: acute lymphoblastic leukemia, germ cell tumors and retinoblastoma.
As far as the first two types of pediatric cancer mentioned above are concerned, it appears that prolonged exposure to rather high levels of air pollution ups a child's risk of developing them by the age of five by 4% and 17%, respectively.
In the case of retinoblastoma, it was discovered that air pollution upped the overall risk for this medical condition by 14%, the researchers explain.
According to the official website for the American Association for Cancer Research, the scientists' decision to investigate the link between air pollution and pediatric cancers came as a result of the fact that, unlike in the case of adults, little is known about what causes children to develop various types of said medical condition.
“The main reason for undertaking this study was that we know much more about the causes of adult cancers than we do of the causes of childhood cancers,” explained Julia Heck, Ph.D.
“We studied pregnancy exposures because the fetus is likely to be more vulnerable to environmental factors during that time, and we also know that certain childhood cancers originate in utero,” she further added.
Despite their succeeding in linking air pollution to an increased risk of developing acute lymphoblastic leukemia, germ cell tumors or retinoblastoma, the researchers are yet to figure out which of the harmful chemical compounds that make up air pollution are the ones that threaten a child's health.
Because of this, it is to be expected that further research on the matter at hand will follow shortly.