For the first time, researchers have found soot particles from air pollution caused by polluted exhaust gases in the placenta. Belgian scientists examined 28 placentas of women who had just given birth in the hospital of the city of Genk, close to Maastricht, and described their findings in Nature Communications .
The soot particles, black carbon, were found on the side of the placenta where the fetus is located in the womb. This is the first time scientists have made such a discovery. The particles were found at all 28 placentas. In five of the cases the child was born prematurely.
Now that the researchers know that soot particles from exhaust gases can reach the uterus, further research is needed to determine whether the carbon can also reach the fetus.
"It is not yet known whether in these cases the children also came into contact with the carbon", Tim Nawrot of Hasselt University tells NU.nl. "We do know that air pollution in general, for example also through smoking, can be harmful to a child."
Not known if tattoos affect results
The scientists add that it is not known whether the mothers in question have carbon-bearing tattoos on the body. Although it seems unlikely to them that possible tattoos would change their findings.
The scientists emphasize that their research meets ethical guidelines for human research. All women gave written permission for the study and filled out a survey about their lifestyle.
Based on their addresses, the extent to which the women were exposed to air pollution was assessed. The placentas were collected for examination ten minutes after birth.