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Radon exposure in homes linked to hypertensive disorders of pregnancy

Research has shown that ionizing radiation (measured by the radon exposure inside one’s home) is linked to having high blood pressure in non-pregnant people. Researchers in this study want to extend this finding into pregnant populations – asking if there could be a link between radon exposure and risk for developing a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy (including preeclampsia). To answer this question, researchers used medical record data from over 975,000 women from the Massachusetts Birth Registry and matched them to an average radon level from the zip code each pregnant woman lived in when she was pregnant (this let them estimate each woman’s radon exposure). Out of the 975,000 women, 36,000 developed a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy, and researchers found that higher radon levels in homes did indeed increase odds of having a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy. As we learn more about what increases risks for preeclampsia, it is incredibly important that we continue the search for risk factors that we can change – called “modifiable risk factors”. While it is certainly helpful to understand our risks for things we can’t change, like genetics or having had preeclampsia before, understanding the risk factors that we can change is a powerful step to stopping preeclampsia.  As 1 in 15 homes in the United States is estimated to have elevated radon levels, this study is an excellent example of a potential modifiable risk factor that could lower a woman’s odds of developing preeclampsia. The next step for this research could be to apply what they learned to an intervention and lower radon levels in high level homes to see if it can lower the risk for preeclampsia.

Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33395935/

About Research Roundup

Each quarter, our team of researchers reviews the most current studies related to hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and selects those studies they feel will be of greatest interest to our community to summarize.

Special thanks to our volunteer research team, who under the leadership of Dr. Elizabeth Sutton, make Research Roundup possible: Alisse Hauspurg, MD Felicia LeMoine, MD Jenny Sones, PhD, DVM, and Robin Trupp, PhD, RN.

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