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Does climate change affect newborn health?
Global climate change has far-reaching consequences for our planet, for example, it increases the storms that occur, melts the polar ice caps and increases the water temperature of the oceans, which leads to the death of the coral reefs. Doctors have now explained that climate change can also appear to affect the health of babies' hearts.
The University of Albany scientists found in their current study that global climate change appears to be linked to an increased number of heart defects in babies. The experts published the results of their study in the journal Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA).
Why does extreme heat trigger congenital heart defects?
It is still unclear why heat exposure in pregnant women can lead to congenital heart defects in their babies. However, animal studies suggest that heat in fetuses leads to cell death and can interact with heat-sensitive proteins, which play an important role in development.
More heart defects in newborns in the United States
The current research suggests that the extreme heat caused by climate change could increase the number of babies with heart defects in the United States in the future. Congenital heart defects or anomalies with which babies are born affect approximately 40,000 newborns in the United States each year, according to a statement from the American Heart Association. An earlier study by the same group of scientists already found that exposure to high temperatures in women during pregnancy may be associated with an increased risk of congenital heart defects in babies. This study included women who gave birth to a baby between 1997 and 2007.
What are the experts' statements based on?
In the new study that has now been carried out, the researchers combined this data with temperature forecasts for climate change. The team builds statements based on climate change forecasts collected by NASA and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. They simulated changes in maximum daily maximum temperatures for different geographic regions in the United States and then calculated how much heat and extreme heat events pregnant women will experience in spring and summer.
Women should avoid extreme heat during pregnancy
The experts calculated that between 2025 and 2035, heat events caused by climate change could cause an additional 7,000 cases of congenital heart defects. So far it is only an estimate, but it is generally advisable for women in the first weeks of pregnancy to avoid extreme heat. Such extreme heat can also lead to heart attacks in people with cardiovascular and lung diseases, explains study author Dr. Shao Lin from the University at Albany. (as)