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Air pollution and pre-eclampsia; associations and potential mechanisms

last modified Jan 05, 2021 12:27 PM

Elizabeth Bearblock,Catherine E.Aiken,Graham J.Burton



Air pollution has significant negative health impacts, particularly on the cardiovascular system. The aims of this narrative review were to identify whether there is an association between air pollution and the incidence of pre-eclampsia, and the potential mechanisms by which any effects may be mediated.


We undertook a literature search using Google Scholar, PubMed, the Cochrane Library and NICE Evidence. The primary eligibility criterion was articles correlating exposure to air pollution with incidence of pre-eclampsia.


Meta-analyses currently show a positive association between pre-eclampsia and exposure to both particulate matter PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide, but no significant associations with ambient ozone or carbon monoxide exposure. No meta-analysis has been performed for exposure to sulfur dioxide. Variability in terms of quantification of exposure, the exposure period and co-founders among the studies makes comparisons complex. Adverse effects on trophoblast invasion and placental vascularisation, and increases in oxidative stress and anti-angiogenic factors, such as sFlt-1, in response to air pollution provide pathways by which exposure may contribute to the pathophysiology of pre-eclampsia. So far, studies have not discriminated between the early- and late-onset forms of the syndrome.


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