There’s no escaping from the record levels of air pollution that has plagued Singapore since the forest fires begun in Indonesia. No matter if you’re pregnant or not, you would have taken heed of the government’s advice to stay indoors and wear the N95 face mask when you’re outdoors. We know that the PSI is at hazardous levels, but the more important question you might be asking could be, “How will the haze affect my pregnancy?”
Haze and pregnancy: What “hazardous” means
The National Environmental Agency (NEA) defines a Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) of 300 to be hazardous for health. At 200, the air is considered unhealthy for the young, the elderly and those with heart and respiratory problems. At 300, the smoke particles can aggravate symptoms and worse, trigger early onset of certain diseases.
RELATED: Protect your baby from the haze
Haze and pregnancy: Will air pollution affect my foetus?
Since air pollution affects everyone’s health, it would certainly affect pregnant women as well. This is especially so if you are pregnant and also have heart or respiratory problems like asthma. But what about the baby growing inside of you? Haze and pregnancy surely do not go hand in hand together.
You may be alarmed to know that a recent study in the US discovered exposure to high pollution levels during pregnancy could cause autism. Researchers in the study have found that women who lived in highly polluted areas were twice as likely to have a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder compared to those who lived in less polluted areas.
Other studies conducted in the past have found that living in an area where smog is present can have adverse effects on foetuses. Exposure to air pollution can cause low birth weight, premature birth and other birth complications. Concentrated levels of ozone and carbon monoxide in the air have also been linked to birth defects like cleft palates and heart problems.
Haze and pregnancy: Wait! Don’t panic!
However, before you panic, take note that the researchers found that the air pollutants with the strongest links to autism and other developmental problems are toxins like diesel fuel, lead, manganese and mercury. These are heavy metals and chemicals associated with heavy industry emissions. When absorbed into the body, these toxins can enter the umbilical cord and cross the blood-brain barrier.
In contrast, the main culprit causing the haze and the spike in PSI right now is actually PM10, or particulate matter. This is basically the fine ash and other particles carried in the air from Indonesia. Given that the smoke comes from forest fires, and not a chemical source, it is probably unlikely that this kind of air pollutant would cause any problems developmentally in an unborn baby.
The air pollution discussed in these studies refer to places with extremely high levels of pollution caused by industrial emissions, chemical fires and waste production. Such air pollutants are highly controlled in Singapore. Singapore’s air is generally clean and fresh. Even though we may suffer from the haze annually, it is unlikely that a few weeks of exposure to this type of forest fire smoke pollution would cause developmental defects.
While you’re probably relieved to hear your unborn baby will be fine, until the air clears up though, it’s best to take precaution. Do stay indoors as much as possible with your air ioniser, and don’t forget your N95 mask when leaving home.
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