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Can polluted air cause birth defects?

Scientists have found new evidence that prenatal exposure to air pollution may cause congenital heart defects. However, inconsistencies with past results make the finding less than definitive, the researchers say.

Epidemiologist Pauline Mendola of the Environmental Protection Agency in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and her collaborators compared pollution statistics and records of births between 1997 and 2000 in seven Texas counties. The researchers focused on the quality of the air that women were breathing during their first 2 months of pregnancy, which a 2002 study in California had linked to certain congenital defects of the heart, lip, and palate.

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