Air pollution in the North has been linked to higher rates of chromosomal damage in fetuses of pregnant women in the area according to new research carried out by doctors at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba and Carmel Medical Center in Haifa. The Carmel team looked at the rates of chromosomal damage in the fetuses of pregnant women living in the North between 1996 and 2001 and compared the data with those living in the center of the country, who came for examination to Meir. Of 6,700 samples taken from fetuses via amniocentesis at the Kfar Saba hospital, 1.5 percent showed chromosomal damage, but the rate was a significantly higher 2.4% among the 2,400 fetuses tested in Haifa. Chromosomal damage can mean congenital and genetic disorders in babies. "This is a very worrisome finding, especially as we controlled for factors linked with chromosomal damage such as maternal age over 35," said Prof. Moshe Feigin, a gynecologist and head of the genetic institute at Meir Medical Center. Dr. Reuven Sharoni, a senior gynecologist at the Kfar Saba hospital, added, "Given the fact that environmental conditions in the two regions were similar, except for the significantly high concentration of ozone in the North compared to the center of the country, this is a very worrisome finding." The research at the two Clalit Health Services hospitals will be presented on Thursday at a conference on environmental medicine at Tel Aviv University.