IR pollution particles can reach babies in the womb, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that soot nanoparticles can cross the placenta and enter fetal organs.
These findings are especially concerning because this exposure window is key to organ development.
Researchers examined 60 mothers and their babies in Aberdeen and the Grampian region of Scotland.
They also analyzed tissue samples from 36 fetuses that had aborted between seven and 20 weeks of gestation.
The team found evidence of “black carbon particles” – also known as soot particles – in cord blood, showing that the particles can cross the placenta.
Soot particles were present in all mothers and neonates.
The amount of particles found was linked to the amount of air pollution the mother was exposed to during pregnancy.
The research team also found the presence of such particles in the livers, lungs and brains of the aborted fetuses.
Black carbon particles were found in all tissue samples analyzed.
The scientists warned that the particles can be seen in fetuses as early as the first trimester of pregnancy.
This is the first time that black carbon nanoparticles have been shown to be found in developing fetuses.
Black carbon is one of many particulates and gases released during the combustion of diesel, coal and other biomass fuels.
It is part of the particulate air pollution known as PM2.5.
“We found that maternally inhaled carbonaceous air pollution particles can cross the placenta and then enter human fetal organs during pregnancy,” the authors wrote in the journal Lancet Planetary Health.
“These findings are especially concerning because this exposure window is key to organ development.”
Professor Tim Nawrot, from Hasselt University, said: “We know that exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and childhood has been linked to stillbirth, preterm birth, low weight babies and impaired brain development, with lifelong consequences. persist.
“We show in this study that the number of black carbon particles that enter the mother is proportionally passed on to the placenta and to the baby.
“This means that air quality regulation must recognize this transmission during pregnancy and act to protect the most sensitive stages of human development.”
Professor Paul Fowler, from the University of Aberdeen, added: “We were all concerned that if nanoparticles got into the fetus they could directly affect development in the womb.
“What we have shown for the first time is that nanoparticles containing black carbon air pollution not only enter the placentas of the first and second trimesters, but also find their way into the organs of the developing fetus, including the liver and lungs. .
“What’s even more concerning is that these black carbon particles also make their way into the developing human brain — meaning these nanoparticles can interact directly with control systems in human fetal organs and cells.”