In yet another air pollution-related discovery, it’s been discovered that air pollution can cause lifelong consequences in unborn foetuses. We’ve known that ultrafine particles are harmful for years due to their ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. However, recent studies have shown that the impacts of ultrafine particles also carry over to unborn children.
Pollution particles have been found in different organs of unborn babies, including the lungs, liver and brains. These particles enter the babies through their mothers, who breathe them before they pass through the bloodstream and placenta to the foetus. Needless to say, this is a very concerning finding.
On top of reaching babies' organs, air pollution can also increase the risk of miscarriage and premature births while also leading to low birth weights and hindering brain development. In other words, air pollution can lead to lifelong health effects, even in unborn babies.
The particles primarily found in the unborn babies were black carbon emitted from fossil fuel combustion (mainly from vehicles). These particles can cause inflammation and carry toxic chemicals that can be harmful in other ways.
The study was carried out in Scotland and Belgium with non-smoking mothers. Both countries have low air pollution, and this study was the first to discover that nanoparticles can pass into the organs of the developing foetus (rather than just the placenta, which was found in another study in 2018).
This study again shows the importance of protecting ourselves from air pollution. Furthermore, it highlights the importance of policies targeting air pollution reduction. With air pollution impacting even our unborn children, there’s no way to ignore the issue anymore.