Study: Pollution Harmful to Unborn Babies

NEW YORK (AP) - Researchers say air pollution may harm babies even before they draw their first breath. A Columbia University study finds prenatal exposure to air pollution may be linked to genetic changes tied to a higher cancer risk.

The study followed 60 newborns and their non-smoking mothers in low-income neighborhoods. The mothers wore backpack air monitors during the third trimester of pregnancy. The study's senior author says the newborns with higher levels of exposure had about a 50 percent increase in the level of persistent genetic abnormalities.

Doctor Frederica Perera says it's impossible to estimate the precise increase in cancer risk, but that this is the first evidence that air pollution can cause mutations in the womb. The study appears in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention.