Air Pollution Particles Found in Placenta

Breathing in wood smoke impacts far more than our lungs. The fine particulates in the smoke cause inflammation and that can lead to a large range of impacts.

Increasingly, research is showing how air pollution negatively affects a growing fetus. One recent study actually measured the presence of Black Carbon, which comes from fossil fuel-powered vehicles (mostly diesel) and wood burning, in placentas.*

An article about the study, Air Pollution Particles Showing Up in Human Placentas, Next to the Fetus, states “A group of scientists in Belgium has found that when pregnant women inhale black carbon pollution, the particles can travel from their lungs to the placenta, where they accumulate on the side facing the growing baby.”

The issue with this discovery is that “In a placenta, black carbon can cause inflammation that can lead to or exacerbate other health issues.”

For example, one 2018 study found that when pregnant women were exposed to high levels of fine particulate matter in their third trimester, their children were more likely to have high blood pressure in their childhood.

This study is apparently the first to show that the placental barrier can be penetrated by particles breathed in by the mother.

The scientists also found that the more pollution the mothers were exposed to, the more black carbon ended up in their placentas.

For additional information, read a related article in the Guardian

*The placenta is an organ that develops in the uterus during pregnancy. This structure provides oxygen and nutrients to growing baby and removes waste products from baby’s blood. The placenta attaches to the wall of mother’s uterus, and baby’s umbilical cord arises from it.

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