Purpose of review
To date, there is no evidence that humanity will implement appropriate mitigation measures to avoid the catastrophic impact of climate change on the planet and human health. Vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and children will be the most affected. This review highlights epidemiologic data on climate change-related prenatal environmental exposures affecting the fetus and children's respiratory health.
Research on outcomes of prenatal exposure to climate change-related environmental changes and pediatric pulmonary health is limited. In addition to adverse pregnancy outcomes known to affect lung development, changes in lung function, increased prevalence of wheezing, atopy, and respiratory infections have been associated with prenatal exposure to increased temperatures, air pollution, and maternal stress. The mechanisms behind these changes are ill-defined, although oxidative stress, impaired placental functioning, and epigenetic modifications have been observed. However, the long-term impact of these changes remains unknown.
The detrimental impact of the climate crisis on pediatric respiratory health begins before birth, highlighting the inherent vulnerability of pregnant women and children. Research and advocacy, along with mitigation and adaptation measures, must be implemented to protect pregnant women and children, the most affected but the least responsible for the climate crisis.