Study finds air pollution reaches placenta during pregnancy

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A new study suggests when a pregnant woman breathes in air pollution, it can travel beyond her lungs to the placenta that guards her fetus.

Pollution composed of tiny particles from car exhaust, smokestacks and other sources is dangerous to everyone. During pregnancy, particle pollution is linked to premature births and low birth weight, but scientists don’t understand why.

The placenta helps block damaging substances in the mother’s bloodstream. Belgian researchers used a novel scan to check placentas donated after birth, and spotted a type of particle pollution sootlike black carbon. Moms from more polluted areas had placentas with more particles.

Tuesday’s study was small, and more research is needed to tell if the particles are responsible for fetal harm. The study was reported in Nature Communications.