The changes pollution inscribes in pregnancy haunt us not just during childhood, but throughout life

In chunky black glasses and a patterned scarf, her dark hair pulled back, Beate Ritz still looks more the sophisticated European than the casual Californian, even after decades in America.

Sunshine streams through a window into her home in the Santa Monica Mountains, above Los Angeles, as we speak on Skype, and she pours herself a cup of tea.

Ritz is an epidemiologist at UCLA, and she knows it can be nearly impossible to link one individual’s health problem to a specifc environmental cause. But the work that would shape her career began with a nagging, personal worry. The smog blanketing L.A. came as a foul shock when she arrived from her native Germany.

She was expecting her first child, and the pregnancy was smooth and easy; she swam regularly right until the end.

 

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