Pregnant mothers who live in high-traffic areas may have children who are at a higher risk of developing asthma, say researchers from the University of Cincinnati and Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health who studied the umbilical cord blood of New York City children.

Data show that prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)—byproducts of incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels such as gasoline—can interact with genes during key development periods and potentially cause diseases such as cancer and childhood asthma.

Rachel Miller, MD, co-author of the study and director of the asthma project at Mailman’s Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, asserted that awareness of early asthma predicators is important because “they represent potential clinical targets for intervention.”

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