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Adverse biobehavioral effects in infants resulting from pregnant rhesus macaques’ exposure to wildfire smoke


As wildfires across the world increase in number, size, and intensity, exposure to wildfire smoke (WFS) is a growing health problem. To date, however, little is known for any species on what might be the behavioral or physiological consequences of prenatal exposure to WFS. Here we show that infant rhesus monkeys exposed to WFS in the first third of gestation (n = 52) from the Camp Fire (California, November, 2018) show greater inflammation, blunted cortisol, more passive behavior, and memory impairment compared to animals conceived after smoke had dissipated (n = 37). Parallel analyses, performed on a historical control cohort (n = 2490), did not support the alternative hypothesis that conception timing alone could explain the results. We conclude that WFS may have a teratogenic effect on the developing fetus and speculate on mechanisms by which WFS might affect neural development.

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