Toxic air pollution particles found in lungs, livers, brains of unborn babies: Study

The study was conducted with non-smoking mothers in Scotland and Belgium, in places with relatively low air pollution.

Published: 06th October 2022 02:04 PM  |   Last Updated: 06th October 2022 03:29 PM   |  A+A-

Delhi pollution, Delhi AQI

Representational Image/ smog and air pollution in Delhi. (File Photo | Parveen Negi)

By Online Desk

Toxic air pollution particles have been found in the lungs, livers and brains of unborn babies, long before they have taken their first breath, say researchers describing their "groundbreaking" discovery "very worrying". 

Air pollution particles, according to a report, were first detected in placentas in 2018 by Prof Jonathan Grigg at Queen Mary University of London and colleagues. 

The new discovery, said Prof Tim Nawrot at Hasselt University in Belgium, who co-led the study, "have shown convincingly that the particles then get into the foetuses", reports The Guardian.

The study was conducted with non-smoking mothers in Scotland and Belgium, in places with relatively low air pollution.

Thousands of black carbon particles were found in each cubic millimetre of tissue, which were breathed in by the mother during pregnancy and then passed through the bloodstream and placenta to the foetus.

Dirty air was already known to strongly correlate with increased miscarriages, premature births, low birth weights and disturbed brain development. But the new study provides direct evidence of how that harm may be caused. The scientists said the pollution could cause lifelong health effects, says The Guardian report.

“We have shown for the first time that black carbon nanoparticles not only get into the first and second trimester placenta, but then also find their way into the organs of the developing foetus,” Prof Paul Fowler, at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, was quoted as saying by the report.

“What is even more worrying is that these particles also get into the developing human brain,” he said. “This means that it is possible for these nanoparticles to directly interact with control systems within human foetal organs and cells,” he adds.

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



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