If you live in the city, you know you're not breathing the best air around. Cars, trucks, furnaces, and industrial machinery all spew poisonous carbon monoxide into the air. If you breathe in a lot of second-hand smoke from cigarettes and cigars, you're also taking in carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a deadly, odorless gas that causes sudden death at high levels of concentration. You've heard stories, undoubtedly, about entire families who have died in their sleep because of furnace malfunctions that filled their houses with carbon monoxide. You've probably heard, too, that people commit suicide by closing the garage doors and sitting in a car with the motor running; it doesn't take long for the carbon monoxide (produced by the car) to kill. Obviously, carbon monoxide is not good for your growing baby.
Fetal growth retardation is an abnormality of fetal growth inside the womb that causes a tenfold increase in mortality.
When carbon monoxide enters the body it interferes with the blood's ability to bring oxygen to all body parts and organs. Without oxygen, the body soon shuts down. In the fetus, carbon monoxide crosses the placenta and reduces the amount of oxygen that is delivered and circulated. This can cause a condition called fetal growth retardation.
Although carbon monoxide is dangerous, it's not necessary to start holding your breath every time you walk outside. A few commonsense precautions will keep your baby perfectly healthy:
- Check your furnace for carbon monoxide leaks and get a carbon monoxide detector for your house.
- Make sure wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, gas heaters, gas stoves, and space heaters are all working properly. All of them can leak carbon monoxide.
- Check the exhaust system in your car for leaks. Don't start the car in the garage with the garage doors closed. Keep the car's air vents closed when you're in heavy traffic.
- Avoid jogging, running, walking, or cycling along roads with heavy traffic.
- Avoid smoke-filled rooms.
- Try to stay indoors on "smog alert" days.
Millions of healthy babies are born to mothers who live in smog-choked cities and who spend lots of time in smoke-filled rooms. But to be on the safe side, avoid plopping yourself in the middle of a smog-filled or smoky area.