World.- Belgian scientists have found black carbon particles on the fetal side of the placenta of 28 pregnant women exposed to air pollution. The finding needs further research to determine whether these particles are capable of reaching the fetus.
For years, numerous jobs have warned of the negative effects of exposure to air pollution on pregnant women, such as having a premature birth or underweight newborns.
To improve care during pregnancy in contaminated areas it is necessary to understand how these particles affect
Now, a new study published this week in Nature Communications describes the existence of black carbon particles on the fetal side of the placenta of 28 women exposed to air pollution during their pregnancy.
The fine black carbon particles, which color soot, are released into the air daily, largely by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuels and biomass. Its presence in the atmosphere increases the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases; and is an important factor in global warming.
Using high-resolution images, the team – led by Tim Nawrot, a researcher at Hasselt University (Belgium) – was able to detect such black carbon particles in placentas collected from five preterm births and 23 full-term births.
Moreover, scientists found that ten mothers who had been exposed to high levels of residential black carbon particles (2.42 micrograms per m3) during pregnancy had higher levels of particles in the placenta than ten other mothers exposed to (0.63 micrograms per m3).
According to the authors, «to improve care during pregnancy in contaminated areas it is necessary to understand how these particles affect, either directly on the fetus or indirectly through the mother».
Further studies are essential to determine whether the particles are capable of reaching the fetus
More studies needed
Researchers have also described an overview of molecular changes in the placenta – including epigenetic shades – caused by air pollution, in a review paper published in the journal Clinical Epigenetics.
However, despite these results, the authors are cautious and argue that further studies are essential to determine whether the particles are capable of reaching the fetus.
«We need to understand whether the accumulation of black carbon particles in placental tissue may be responsible for the adverse effects associated with exposure to air pollution during pregnancy,» Nawrot concludes.