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Pollution and deprivation increase risk of congenital heart disease

The development of congenital heart disease has many potential factors. New research indicates that maternal exposure to pollutants and deprivation can increase the risk of the disease for their offspring.

The factors that can lead to the development of congenital heart disease (CHD) are myriad. A new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association examined the relationship between environmental and socioeconomic factors and the incidence of CHD among live-born infants in the state of California.1

Investigators used US Census data to determined socioeconomic status and environmental exposure to pollutants. They developed a social deprivation and environmental exposure index that was split into 4 quartiles, with quartile 1 having the least exposure to pollutants and social deprivation and quartile 4 having the most exposure.

In the cohort of 2,419,651 live-born infants and a subcohort of 7698 infants with CHD, the incidence of CHD was 3.2 per 1000 live births. Researchers found the incidence of CHD was significantly higher among infants who were in quartile 4 than infants who were in quartile 1. The incidence remained after adjusting for maternal race/ethnicity and taking into account the potential relationship between social deprivation and exposure to pollutants. They also found that maternal comorbidities could explain 13% of the link between CHD and social deprivation and environmental exposure.

The researchers concluded that the findings of their study illustrate targets that government policies should address to minimize health outcome disparities.


1.    Peyvandi S, Baer RJ, Chambers CD, et al. Environmental and socioeconomic factors influence the live-born incidence of congenital heart disease: a population-based study in California. J Am Heart Assoc. 2020;9(8):e015255. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.119.015255