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Air pollutants, metals can impact placenta during pregnancy

Researchers in the United Kingdom (UK) said metals and other air pollutants have been found in the placentas of new mothers, an indication that such pollutants can reach the fetus. According to findings of the new study published recently in the journal ‘Science of The Total Environment,’ most of the particles found in the placentas were carbon-based.

But there were also trace amounts of metals, including silica, phosphorus, calcium, iron and chromium, and more rarely, titanium, cobalt, zinc, and cerium. The ‘Newsmax’ reported that many of the metals were associated with vehicle-emitted air pollution from fossil fuel combustion and brake wear. The lead author of the study, Dr. Jonathan Grigg said “our study for the first time shows that inhaled carbon particulate matter in air pollution travels in the blood stream, and is taken up by important cells in the placenta, adding, “we hope that this information will encourage policy makers to reduce road traffic emissions.”

Grigg is a professor of pediatric respiratory and environmental medicine at Queen Mary University of London. Grigg and his team analysed placentas donated by 15 healthy women in London who had just given birth. Black particles that closely resembled particulate air pollution were found in an average of one per cent of cells in all 15 placentas. Co-author Norrice Liu said there had been a known link between maternal exposure to high pollution levels and problems with the fetus, including low birth weight. According to ‘News-max’, a Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Lisa Miyashita said “we have thought for a while that maternal inhalation could potentially result in pollution particles traveling to the placenta once inhaled. “However, there are many defense mechanisms in the lung that prevent foreign particles from traveling elsewhere, so it was surprising to identify these particles in the placental cells from all 15 of our participants.”

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