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UCLA docs study traffic pollution, pregnancy and rates of cancer in children

April 9, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Is there a connection between traffic pollution and higher rates of cancer in children?

Previous research shows pollution from cars, trucks and buses contain particles of known carcinogens. UCLA researchers set out to find out how much exposure increases the risk of pediatric cancer.

You can't avoid freeways and busy streets if you in Los Angeles.

Epidemiology chair at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health Dr. Beate Ritz and colleagues found children of women living near traffic while pregnant had an increased risk of developing cancer.

"The developing fetus is much more sensitive to these kind of pollutants," said Dr. Ritz.

Ritz used two methods of recording traffic and other air pollution throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties. She compared those data with patients on childhood cancer registries, and where they lived.

Those with the highest pollution exposure had 5 to 10 percent more cases of acute lymphoblastic leukemia; 17 to 40 percent more cases of retinoblastomas; and about 20 percent more teratomas or tumors.

"Therefore [they] have a much higher risk for these early childhood cancers when there's exposure during pregnancy," said Ritz.

But what if you are pregnant and you live near a freeway or busy interaction and you can't afford to move? Research shows there are things you can do to protect yourself.

"Definitely a diet high in fruits and vegetables is something that may actually help you get rid of toxins from your body," said Ritz.

Studies show cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are most effective.

Dr. Ritz hopes to see more clean vehicles too.

And Ritz adds while we all may not live near freeways or busy streets, the highest exposure occurs when we are sitting in our cars in traffic.


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