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In Martinique, the proximity of Sargassum poses a danger to pregnant women – Science et Avenir

Continuous exposure to hydrogen sulfide released by rotting sargassum algae may lead to earlier cases of preeclampsia in pregnant women, indicates a recent study by the University Hospital of Martinique. “What stands out is that the pathology is a bit more severe because it occurs earlier in pregnancy,” summarized Dr. Donatien Baezre de Lanlay, lead author of the study, published in the AFP journal Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology.

Risk of prematurity

Her work was carried out by comparing the files of 3,020 pregnant women who passed through the Maison de la femme, de la mère et de l’enfant de Fort-de-France between 2016 and 2021. The results showed that pregnant women who lived less than 2 km from Sargassum concentrations and had preeclampsia showed symptoms at about 32 weeks pregnant, versus 35 weeks for those who lived outside that limit.

Preeclampsia links high blood pressure and weight gain to edema and occurs in about 8% of pregnancies. “Because preeclampsia occurs earlier, there is a risk of preterm birth,” warns Donatien Baezre de Lanlay. However, according to the study, analysis of the data showed no difference in incidence depending on the distance of sargassum exposure.

Nausea and toxic fumes

Sargassum infestations are considered a “major health problem” in Martinique, as they are in Guadeloupe. In March, the government adopted the “Sargassum-2 Plan”, which provides for the allocation of almost 36 million euros over four years, “an increase in public funding of almost 30%,” the Ministry of Ecological Transition stressed.

The spread of these algae, which emit sickening and toxic fumes as they rot on the shore, is “intolerable,” Jean-Francois Karenco, Minister Delegate for Overseas Departments, commented earlier this month during his first visit to France on Martinique. He advocated the creation of “a major Martinique public service to deal with the sargassum problem”.

As of 18 July, Météo-France has made available to the general public a bulletin forecasting the grounding of Sargassum in each of the French territories. In addition, the Sargassum gas surveillance network, established in Martinique in 2015, will soon be expanded to five Caribbean countries: Saint Lucia, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba and Mexico.

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