Pregnant women are uniquely susceptible to adverse effects of air pollution exposure due to vulnerabilities and health consequences during pregnancy (e.g., hypertensive disorders of pregnancy [HDP]) compared to the general population. Because the Clean Air Act (CAA) creates a duty to protect at-risk groups, the regulatory assessment of at-risk populations has both policy and scientific foundations. Previously, pregnant women have not been specially protected in establishing the margin of safety for the ozone and particulate matter (PM) standards. Due to physiological changes, pregnant women can be at greater risk of adverse effects of air pollution and should be considered an at-risk population. Women with preexisting conditions, women experiencing poverty, and groups that suffer systematic discrimination may be particularly susceptible to cardiac effects of air pollutants during pregnancy. We rigorously reviewed 11 studies of over 1.3 million pregnant women in the United States to characterize the relationship between ozone or PM exposure and HDP. Findings were generally mixed, with a few studies reporting a joint association between ozone or PM and social determinants or pre-existing chronic health conditions related to HDP. Adequate evidence associates exposure to PM with an adverse effect of HDP among pregnant women not evident among non-gravid populations.
Keywords: air pollution; cardiovascular disease; pregnancy.