A mother’s exposure to airborne pollutants at work during her pregnancy may increase the likelihood that her unborn child will later develop asthma, a Danish study said.

The review of registry data on 45,658 seven-year-old children and their mothers found that 18.6% of children of mothers who were exposed to low-molecular-weight particles at work during pregnancy developed asthma, compared to 16.1% of the general population.

Risk at work: Pollutants can be damaging for the foetus.

For the study, which was presented at the European Respiratory Society’s recent annual congress in Amsterdam, Christensen and colleagues used mothers’ job titles to estimate their exposure to workplace pollutants, with categories for either low- or high-molecular-weight particles, mixed, farmers, “unclassifiable" and students, as well as a reference group of office workers for comparison.

After adjusting for age, body mass index, allergy and hypersensitivities, smoking, medication and pets, there was a slightly higher risk—about 11%—for asthma in children when the pregnant mothers were exposed to particles of both low molecular weight and high molecular weight.

The researchers found no asthma associations in the other exposure groups.

Experts greeted the results warily.

“Results like these should always be interpreted with caution since they may be caused by confounding from other lifestyle factors that are not easily adjusted for," said Klaus Bonnelykke, of the Danish Pediatric Asthma Center, who was not involved in the research.

“However, there is increasing evidence that the prenatal period may be a critical period affecting the offspring’s risk for later development of asthma and other (allergic) diseases," he told Reuters Health by email.

Christensen agreed that more work is needed.

“Whilst a link has been found, our results at this stage are modest and further research is needed into specific chemicals and substances to determine those that could be most harmful," Christensen added.



Stress no. 1 cause of leave from work

How cool is your profession? A new study has found that stress at the workplace has become the No. 1 cause of long-term absence from work.

The study, carried out in almost 600 organizations in the UK, also found a link between job security and mental health issues, with employers planning redundancies “significantly" more likely to report problems among their staff.

Stress has even eclipsed stroke, heart attack, cancer and back problems, research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), UK, and health firm Simplyhealth, UK, found—it dubbed the condition the 21st century equivalent of “Black Death". Stress-related absence has increased more in the public sector, and restructuring and organizational changes were the main causes, the report said, highlighting the impact of cuts in jobs, pay and pensions, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Jill Miller, a CIPD adviser, said: “The survey this year shows that stress is for the first time the No.1 cause of long-term sickness absence, highlighting the heightened pressure many people feel under in the workplace as a result of the prolonged economic downturn.

“To a large degree, managing stress is about effective leadership and people management, particularly during periods of major change and uncertainty. Line managers need to focus on regaining the trust of their employees and openly communicating to avoid stress and potential absences.

“They also need to be able to spot the early signs of people being under excessive pressure or having difficulty coping at work and to provide appropriate support." PTI

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