Global climate change has led to an increase in the prevalence and severity of wildfires. Pollutants released into air, soil and groundwater from wildfires may impact embryo development leading to gastroschisis.
The objective of this study was to determine the association between wildfire exposure before and during pregnancy and the risk of foetal gastroschisis development.
This was a retrospective cohort study using The California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development Linked Birth File linked to The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection data between 2007 and 2010. Pregnancies complicated by foetal gastroschisis were identified by neonatal hospital discharge ICD-9 code. Pregnancies were considered exposed to wildfire if the mother's primary residence zip code was within 15 miles to the closest edge of a wildfire. The exposure was further stratified by trimester or if exposed within 30 days prior to pregnancy. Multivariable log-binomial regression analyses were performed to estimate the association between wildfire exposure in each pregnancy epoch and foetal gastroschisis.
Between 2007 and 2010, 844,348 (40%) births were exposed to wildfire in California. Compared with births without wildfire exposure, those with first-trimester exposure were associated with higher rates of gastroschisis, 7.8 vs. 5.7 per 10,000 births (adjusted relative risk [aRR] 1.28, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.07, 1.54). Furthermore, those with prepregnancy wildfire exposure were also found to have higher rates of gastroschisis, 12.5 vs. 5.7 per 10,000 births, (aRR 2.17, 95% CI 1.42, 3.52). In contrast, second- and third-trimester wildfire exposures were not associated with foetal gastroschisis.
Wildfire exposure within 30 days before pregnancy was associated with more than two times higher risk of foetal gastroschisis, whereas a 28% higher risk was demonstrated if exposure was in the first trimester.