Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Air Pollution Particles Discovered in Placentas

Health + Wellness
Air Pollution Particles Discovered in Placentas
London skyline with level 32 "moderate" air pollution in Sept. 2017. David Holt / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Researchers have found the first evidence that soot from polluted air can travel from a pregnant woman's lungs and reach the placenta via the bloodstream, according to a press release from Queen Mary University of London.

The study examined the placentas of five women living in London after they gave birth. The women were all non-smokers, had uncomplicated pregnancies and delivered healthy babies.


For the study, the research team examined 3,500 macrophage cells from the five placentas. Macrophages, which are white blood cells that reside all over the human body, protect the immune system as they work to engulf harmful particles, such as bacteria and pollution particles.

Using a high-powered microscope, the researchers detected 72 small, black particles among the placental macrophages, which the scientists believe are tiny carbon particles typically created by burning fossil fuels, the press release noted.

"We can't think of anything else they could be. It is very evident to us they are black sooty particles," said Dr. Lisa Miyashita, one of the researchers, as quoted by The Guardian. The sooty particles found in the placental macrophages appeared similar to ones found in lung macrophages exposed to air pollutants.

The results show the first evidence that inhaled pollution particles can move from the lungs into the bloodstream and then to the placenta, according to Dr. Norrice Liu, who led the research.

"We do not know whether the particles we found could also move across into the fetus, but our evidence suggests that this is indeed possible," Liu said in the press release. "We also know that the particles do not need to get into the baby's body to have an adverse effect, because if they have an effect on the placenta, this will have a direct impact on the fetus."

The study was recently presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Paris.

"This new research suggests a possible mechanism of how babies are affected by pollution while being theoretically protected in the womb. This should raise awareness amongst clinicians and the public regarding the harmful effects of air pollution in pregnant women," Mina Gaga, the president of the European Respiratory Society, said in the press release.

"We need stricter policies for cleaner air to reduce the impact of pollution on health worldwide because we are already seeing a new population of young adults with health issues," Gaga concluded.

Tom Vilsack speaks on December 11, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware after being nominated to be Agriculture Secretary by U.S. President Joe Biden. Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday was the lone progressive to vote against Tom Vilsack reprising his role as secretary of agriculture, citing concerns that progressive advocacy groups have been raising since even before President Joe Biden officially nominated the former Obama administration appointee.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A mix of public and private forests in Oregon's Coast Range. Beverly Law / CC BY-ND

By Beverly Law and William Moomaw

Protecting forests is an essential strategy in the fight against climate change that has not received the attention it deserves. Trees capture and store massive amounts of carbon. And unlike some strategies for cooling the climate, they don't require costly and complicated technology.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A car is seen driving in the snow in Dallas in Feb. 2021. Matthew Rader / CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

By Matt Casale

There were many lessons to be learned from Texas' prolonged periods of lost power during its cold snap, which saw temperatures drop into the single digits. But one many people may not recognize is that electric vehicles, or EVs, can be part of a smart resiliency plan — not only in the case of outages triggered by the cold but in other scenarios caused by extreme weather events, from fire-related blackouts in California to hurricane-hit power losses in Puerto Rico.

Read More Show Less
Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation safely returned 10 rescued orangutans to the wild on Borneo Island, Indonesia. Afriadi Hikmal / Getty Images

With lockdowns in place and budgets slashed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many environmental protections vanished this past year, leaving some of the world's most vulnerable species and habitats at risk. But conservationists at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation were faced with an entirely different threat.

Read More Show Less
Flooding in Annapolis, Maryland after Hurricane Isabel, on Sept. 19, 2003. Michael Land / Chesapeake Bay Program / Flickr

Annapolis, Maryland, is suing 26 oil and gas companies for deceiving the public about their products' role in causing climate change. The city is among two dozen state and local governments to file such a lawsuit.

Read More Show Less