A new study sheds light on the detrimental effects of air pollution on unborn babies.
The research found that carbon particles from the air make it to the fetal side of placentas. This indicates that inside the womb, unborn babies are at risk of direct exposure to soot produced by vehicle traffic and automotive fumes.
This is the first study to show how a pregnant woman’s placental barrier can be entered by particles through the mother’s airways. It shows that mothers breathe in thousands of minuscule particles that are found present per cubic millimeter of examined placenta tissue.
These findings established the alarming link to air pollution exposure and increased chances of miscarriages, premature births, and the birth of underweight babies. It suggests that the carbon particles might be the main cause behind these complications.
Carbon particles cause lifelong damage to fetuses according to lead researcher Professor Tim Nawrot of Hasselt University in Belgium. Prof Nawrot tells The Guardian:
“This is the most vulnerable period of life. All the organ systems are in development. For the protection of future generations, we have to reduce exposure.” Prof Nawrot suggests that governments should be held accountable and urged to cut air pollution. He also says people, in general, should avoid traffic-ridden roads to lessen exposure.
“It is really difficult to give people practical advice because everyone has to breathe,” he said. “But what people can do is avoid busy roads as much as possible. There can be very high levels next to busy roads, but just a few meters away can be lower.”