Baby Holding Human Finger

It’s been known for some time that babies whose mothers are exposed to air pollution have a higher chance of being born with birth defects. However, new research has emerged showing that in addition to the risks from air pollution, mothers who are exposed to extreme heat during the early stages of their pregnancy have a higher chance of their babies being born with congenital heart defects (CHDs). A new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that higher temperatures caused by climate change could result in as many as 7,000 additional cases of CHDs in the United States between 2025 and 2035. 

As the Hill explained, Midwestern states such as Iowa will potentially have the highest increase in mothers exposed to excessively hot days during the spring and summer months, followed by the southern states such as Georgia and North Carolina. The study states that maternal heat exposure during early pregnancy may directly cause fetal cell death or interfere with protein synthesis via heat‐shock proteins and induce severe fetal malformations as has been observed in animal studies. As global temperatures continue to rise, more intense, frequent, and longer‐lasting heat events are expected to occur yet significant gaps remain in understanding the potential impact of climate change on maternal heat exposures and the associated CHD risks.

Why This Matters: We need a lot more research to understand just how a warming planet will affect human health as we likely just understand the tip of the iceberg. Research like this is really scary but we have to know what we’re up against and how high the stakes are to reduce global emissions. This also underscores the need for our lawmakers (especially our president) to acknowledge climate change, understand the serious risk that it poses to our existence, and to do something about it. It seems as if children in America have a better understanding of climate change and its impacts than adults do, as was made evident on Jimmy Kimmel’s show Tuesday night:

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