HomeHealthToxic air pollution particles found in lungs and brains of unborn babies

Toxic air pollution particles found in lungs and brains of unborn babies

Toxic air pollution particles have been found in the lungs, livers and brains of unborn babies long before they took their first breath. Researchers said their “groundbreaking” The discovery was “deeply worrisome” as the gestation period of fetuses is the most vulnerable stage of human development.

Thousands of black carbon particles were found in every cubic millimeter of tissue, which were inhaled by the mother during pregnancy and then passed through the bloodstream and placenta to the fetus.

Dirty air was already known to correlate strongly with more miscarriages, premature births, low birth weight and impaired brain development. But the new study provides direct evidence of how that damage might be caused. The scientists said the pollution could cause lifelong health effects.

Made from soot from the combustion of fossil fuels in vehicles, homes and factories, the particles cause inflammation in the body and carry toxic chemicals. The study was conducted on non-smoking mothers in Scotland and Belgium, in places with relatively little air pollution.

“We have shown for the first time that black carbon nanoparticles not only enter the placentas of the first and second trimesters, but also find their way into the organs of the developing fetus,” said Prof. Paul Fowler of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. .

“What’s even more concerning is that these particles also make their way into the developing human brain,” he said. “This means that these nanoparticles can interact directly with control systems in human fetal organs and cells.”

Prof Tim Nawrot from Hasselt University in Belgium, who co-led the study, said: “Air quality regulations should recognize this [air pollution] transmission during gestation and acting to protect the most susceptible stages of human development.”

He said governments are responsible for reducing air pollution, but people should avoid busy roads whenever possible.

Air pollution particles were first detected in placentas in 2018 by Prof Jonathan Grigg of Queen Mary University of London and colleagues. He said: “The new study is very good – they have convincingly shown that the particles then end up in the fetuses.

“Seeing particles entering the brains of fetuses raises the stakes, as it may have lifelong consequences for the child,” Grigg said. “It’s worrying, but we don’t yet know what happens when the particles settle in different places and slowly leach their chemicals,” meaning further research is needed.

A comprehensive global review in 2019 concluded that air pollution can damage every organ and virtually every cell in the human body. Tiny particles have also been found crossing the blood-brain barrier and billions have been found in the hearts of young urban dwellers. More than 90% of the world’s population lives in places where air pollution exceeds World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, causing millions of early deaths each year.

The new research, published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health, found air pollution particles in every lung, liver and brain tissue examined, as well as in cord blood and placentas. The concentration of particles was higher when the mother lived with higher levels of air pollution compared to others in the study.

The 36 fetuses examined in the Scottish portion of the study were from voluntary terminations of normally progressing pregnancies between seven and 20 weeks’ gestation. “The findings are especially concerning because this exposure window is key to organ development,” the scientists said. In Belgium, cord blood was collected after 60 healthy births.

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