SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Wildfires in the West are sending toxic plumes of smoke into the air, hitting cities thousands of miles away.
As fires become more frequent, and more devastating, doctors are increasing awareness about the possible risks for pregnant women and unborn babies.
“Doctors are now realizing that climate change is affecting our patients today because the events are happening so often,” said Dr. Marya Zlatnik, OBGYN and maternal-fetal medicine expert at the University of California at San Francisco.
Dr. Zlatnik explains that medical education for pregnant women has traditionally focused on individual choices that can affect their health such as smoking.
“There’s kind of this whole, broad category of risks that we haven’t studied yet. These are risks that we believe pregnant women and children should avoid,” Dr. Zlatnik said.
One year ago, the Bay Area was greeted by a bleak, smoke-choked atmosphere as fires lit across Northern California. Today, the state is being consumed by fires at an alarming rate.
The smoke from wildfires contains toxic particles that can easily get into the lungs or bloodstream. Dr. Zlatnik said that researchers have discovered soot from wildfires in placentas.
“Anything that damages or causes inflammation in your placenta could potentially harm the baby.
AN studyThe California wildfires may have contributed to as many as 7,000 preterm births, according to a study published last month.
“That could have a lifelong impact on that baby. Prematurity, which is most likely the leading cause for neural developmental problems, is extremely costly and can be very scary for parents,” Dr. Zlatnik said. “Anything that we can do to reduce inflammation could have long-lasting beneficial health effects. .”
According to the study, preterm birth costs the U.S. $25 billion per annum. The authors note that even a slight reduction in preterm delivery risk could greatly benefit society.
Laura Canton, who is due to have her first child in October, says that she is acutely aware of the changing climate and is pondering her future with her daughter.
“When we walk on the beach, we see bottle caps, plastic bottles, Legos everywhere on the beach. Canton explained that Ocean will eventually grow up and might not be able visit Yosemite or Forest because it will disappear.
She lives in San Diego where she has been through the smoke of wildfires.
“The clouds are coming in and you can see it’s a different haze. Canton stated that sunsets are very orange. It’s extremely dry here. So if one house lights up, our houses are so close together, it could destroy the whole city, that’s scary.”