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Credit: Georgia Ray

Studies conducted by Penn assistant professor Mary Regina Boland found links between the environmental conditions of a person's birth month and a variety of health conditions, Penn Medicine News reported.

Boland, an informatics professor, began researching links between a person's birth month and their risk of health conditions in 2015 at Columbia University. She examined the birth dates of more than one million patients treated over 14 years in New York City and discovered links between birth month and a variety of cardiovascular, respiratory, and neurological diseases, Penn Medicine News reported. 

In 2017, Boland published a larger study of more than 10 million patients in three countries and was able to connect disease risk to the environmental factors present during a person's birth month, such as climate and pollution, according to Penn Medicine News. 

“I think the major takeaway is that environmental exposures can affect your body in ways that you may not expect,” Boland said. “It’s very possible that climate change could affect how many grandchildren you’ll have. That’s something you’re probably not thinking about.”

She discovered links between exposures to carbon monoxide and fine air particulates during the first trimester and increased risk of health conditions like depressive disorder and atrial fibrillation, respectively, Penn Medicine News reported. She also found a link between decreased exposure to sunlight during the third trimester and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

“One example of this that is very well studied is the exposure to dust mites in the first three months and the link between asthma,” Columbia professor and co-author of Boland's study Nicholas Tatonetti told the Washington Post. “Once we identify [the connections] we can make recommendations about lifestyle choices and how to have a healthy child. Right now we don’t know that; we’re just starting the analysis.”

Boland told The Washington Post that the studies were partially made possible by the Affordable Care Act, which requires certain public health records to be collected on a daily basis in the country.

“In the future, there will be an unprecedented amount of data that will be available to use to for these kind of analysis,” Boland added.