A new study has shown that air pollution particles can penetrate the placenta and expose unborn babies to toxic chemicals.
A study performed in Hasselt, Belgium, analyzed the placentas of 25 non-smoking women and discovered thousands of particles of air pollution per cubic millimeter in every placenta analyzed.
Although previous research has shown that polluted air can increase risk of miscarriage and premature births, this study provided evidence that the particles themselves may be the cause rather than pollution-related inflammation in the mother’s body.
Study scientists said that, because fetal development is the most vulnerable stage of a person’s life, this pollution exposure could create lifelong health complications.
Hasselt’s particle pollution levels are below the EU limit, meaning the town isn’t a particularly heavily polluted area, according to The Guardian. Busy roads or big cities, particularly those in heavily-polluted countries, may put mothers and their unborn children even more at risk.
The scientists are currently analyzing fetal blood to see if pollution particles cause DNA damage.