June 22, 2022

Many previous studies explain how exposure to certain environmental substances during pregnancy may affect your baby’s health. Toxic substances increase the risk for congenital disabilities, low birth weight, prematurity, and miscarriage.

Studying the long-term effects of various environmental changes during pregnancy has occurred for decades¾from exposure to metals, cigarette smoke, stress, radiation, and more. But, recently, a new study at the California National Primate Research Center at the University of California, Davis, was published exploring the effects of wildfire smoke exposure during early pregnancy on a group of infant monkeys.

It’s typically challenging to study exposure to environmental variations during early pregnancy in women because they often aren’t aware of their pregnancies until weeks after conception. But a fire beginning on November 8, 2018, in Davis, California, provided a natural experiment in wildfire smoke exposure for a group of rhesus macaques housed close by in outdoor corrals at the California National Primate Research Center during mating season. Just under 90 monkeys were born six months later.

After months, studies proved the baby monkeys exposed to smoke had increased inflammation, reduced cortisol response to stress, memory deficits, and a more passive temperament than other animals.

Because of this study’s findings, Bill Lasley, professor emeritus of population health and reproduction at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and Center for Health and Environment, plans to study women who became pregnant through IVF. This allows him and his team to look at more prolonged-term effects of wildfire exposure with the added benefit of knowing the exact time of conception.

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