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Chapter 3: Summary Pregnancy, infancy and early childhood are critical times when all the body's systems are formed, and start maturing. This process happens at a lightning pace. It is controlled by genes, which must switch on and off at just the right time, in just the right order. Therefore, it is clearly a vulnerable phase of life. The developing heart, lung, brain, hormone systems and immunity can all be harmed by pollution. Environmental effects on the embryo, fetus, baby and toddler may last a lifetime, but may take years or even decades to become apparent. Smoking in pregnancy is probably the most serious source of harm, causing slow fetal growth, prematurity and stillbirth. There is also clear evidence that early exposure to air pollution can damage the lungs, and increase the risk of lung infections that may be fatal. It is known to have an effect on heart health in adult life. Research is beginning to point towards effects on growth, intelligence, asthma, and development of the brain and coordination. 34 © Royal College of Physicians 2016

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