Toxins in the atmosphere threaten fetal health in western Salt Lake City


Every source of pollution and exposure to toxic chemicals steals a little bit of our children’s future.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Marathon Refinery at 474 W 900 North in Salt Lake City.

Imagine a young couple, John and Jane Doe, living in the western part of Salt Lake City in 2024. They decide it’s time to have a baby.

Unbeknownst to them, the chromosomes in John’s sperm and Jane’s eggs suffered a bit from the pollution and pesticides they inhaled and ingested when they were younger. Their chances of conceiving are a bit lower, and if they are successful, the baby’s chromosomes will have some imperfections that will increase their chances of developing multiple chronic diseases decades later. Nevertheless, in April, a baby is conceived by the happy couple.

In May, Baby Doe enters the embryonic stage and her organs begin to develop. Over the next few months, extremely precise signaling will result in rapid cell division, and each new cell will be programmed to follow genetic directions to form new critical tissues and organs, including the most biologically complex organ in the known universe. – the human brain.

Thanks to the awe-inspiring new airport, I-80 traffic, the Rio Tinto mine, smelter and tailings piles, and emissions from the refinery row, the Joneses live where pollution is already the highest on the front line. Wasatch. Part of this pollution will handicap the performance of genes in the nucleus of embryonic cells. The delicate process of brain development will suffer, at least a little, and possibly a lot more, especially if it is a man.

But the danger for Baby Doe has only just begun. In 2024, the inland port added tons of new pollution from thousands of diesel engines. Jane Doe will inhale some of it and more pollution nanoparticles will end up in the placenta, cross the umbilical cord and enter the fetus, interfering with the building of the brain and other organs.

In June, other dangers arrive. Salt Lake City Mosquito Control District is aerial spraying a potent neurotoxic organophosphate pesticide, naled, over the area, a small amount of which will be inhaled by Jane Doe at the worst possible time for Baby Doe and will join the pollution particles to make his way to the baby.

Week after week, throughout summer and early fall, Jane will inhale a little more neurotoxin with each spray, while Baby Doe adds 250,000 cells per minute to her tiny brain. If these cells don’t get to where they are supposed to and on time, overall brain function will be irreversibly impaired.

By July, smoke from forest fires will reduce the blood supply to the placenta, reducing the flow of oxygen and essential nutrients. Summers in 2024 are getting hotter and hotter because of the climate crisis, and if the state’s call for the EPA to allow higher ozone levels is successful, Baby Doe will face more. of danger and could end up becoming one of more than 8,000 babies a year in the United States who are stillborn because of ozone, some because of a surge in ozone just the week before ‘childbirth.

More ozone will be an additional risk from the mosquito control district aerial spraying, as the pesticide is heavily diluted with an oil-based carrier, leaving a trail of volatile organic compounds, a precursor to ozone.

Because the couple also live near the airport, where small piston-engine planes are still allowed to use leaded gasoline, Jane Doe will be exposed to a fine mist of lead and other heavy metals that will what lead always does, interfere with the development of the brain’s prefrontal cortex.

Fortunately, in December, Baby Doe enters the world as a “healthy” newborn baby, but perhaps without the best brains he could have had. On her first birthday, with her brain still in a fragile and critical developmental stage, Baby Doe’s cycle of exposure resumes – no more ozone, lead, wildfire smoke and pesticides, but now with a new threat; mosquito pesticides in its main food source – breast milk.

This medley of toxins will wreak havoc. For the lucky ones, like Baby Doe, the toll may be minimal – a brain not as extraordinary as it could have been. In others, it will be much bigger – a failed conception, miscarriage, stillbirth or lifelong disability due to autism.

Every source of pollution and exposure to toxic chemicals steals a little bit of our children’s future.

Every branch of public policy that turns a blind eye, allowing this to continue, is a moral failure for all of us.

Dr Brian Moench | President, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment

Brian Moench, MD, is president of the Utah Physicians for Healthy Environment (UPHE).

Sara johnson, MD, is a pediatrician and a member of the UPHE Board of Directors.

Marina Capella, MD and Louis Borgenicht, MD, are pediatricians.

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