A new study reveals that black carbon, a result of air pollution, can be found in mother’s placenta, posing a potential health risk to unborn babies.

The study examined the placentas of 25 non-smoking women who gave birth in Belgium. Researchers studied the side of the placenta previously facing the fetus and found black carbon particle accumulations. The study concluded that the more black carbon mothers were exposed to, the more was in their placentas.

More research still needs to be done to conclusively determine if, when black carbon is inside the placenta, it can travel to the fetus. It is known that the placenta is responsible for allowing oxygen and nutrients to travel through the mother’s blood through the umbilical cord, which was previously thought to be “impenetrable.” Previous studies show that air pollution particles in placentas has been linked to miscarriages, premature births, and low birth weights.

Black carbon is created by the combustion of fossil fuels and is a result of a range of different pollutions from car exhausts to power plants. A 2017 report found that fumes and soot from road traffic in London could potentially be affecting fetuses.

Dr. Mina Gaga, the president of the European Respiratory Society, stated that these new studies suggest “a possible mechanism of how babies are affected by pollution while theoretically being protected in the womb. 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.”

Sources: CNN 9/18/19, CNN 9/17/18

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