A new paper elaborated by a team of researchers argued that air pollution which reaches a pregnant woman could travel beyond the lungs and to the placenta, which keeps the fetus safe.
Air pollution is composed of chemical particles which come from factory smokestacks, the exhaust of cars, and a selection of other sources. It is dangerous for everyone, and in the case of pregnancy, it has been tied to decreased birth weight and premature births. In the past, researchers didn’t know how air pollution can affect the fetus in, but some theories have surfaced.
With the help of an innovative scanning technique, a team of researchers identified black carbon, a type of pollution particle, on 28 placentas which were donated by fresh mothers. During the pregnancy, the placenta protects and feeds a fetus while also actively trying to block any potential substances which can be found in the bloodstream of the mother.
Air Pollution Can Reach The Placenta During Pregnancy
The scientists observed that particles tended to accumulate on the side of the placenta, which was closer to the fetus, in the proximity of the umbilical cord. This does not prove that the particles can breach the placenta or cause any adverse effects.
However, the discovery has been deemed to be important by the scientific community, and some researchers are already looking forward to learning more about the destructive potential of the black carbon particles.
Previous studies on animals have inferred that particles could travel to the placenta, but this is the first paper which focuses on human placentas. A particular scan method that employs ultra-short laser pulses to highlight the black carbon particles allowed the researchers to identify and measure them without problems.
Among the observed placentas, ten were from mothers who lived in zones with high pollution level while ten were from areas with low pollution levels. Additional research is already underway as the researchers will try to uncover more information in the future.