Black Carbon Found in Placenta of Pregnant Moms Exposed to Air Pollution

By Eve Bandusena | Parents Avenue’s Editorial Assistant | Images Courtesy of Unsplash

As mentioned in a report, forest fires escalating from Indonesia earned the city of Kuching, Sarawak an air pollution index of a staggering 267. 

According to the World Air Quality Index, this signifies that it’s reached a “Very Unhealthy” grade and is placed among the most polluted areas in the world.

Although the smoke which drifted over to Malaysia has reduced significantly, it’s nevertheless still a cause of concern for expectant mothers with a baby on the way. 

Recently, scientists have discovered black carbon particles inside the placentas of pregnant women – surprisingly, including those who don’t live in highly polluted areas.

The sooty black substance inside the placenta was identified by the authors of the research, which was published in the Nature Communications journal. This finding has led them to deduce that it’s likely that black carbon can travel from a mother’s lungs to the placenta.

Fossil fuel-burning vehicles that run on gas and diesel including coal-powered stations are the culprit behind black carbon, which has also been connected to cardiac and respiratory problems.

Studies in the past have pointed out that this substance has been linked to low birth weight and premature births. The researchers responsible for this discovery worries that these black carbon particles are the explanation for these defects.

High-Resolution imaging was used to study the placental tissue from women residing from the north-east of Belgium. A total of 10 women living in areas exposed to high levels of black carbon, and 10 more with lower levels. Another five placentas were from women who’d undergone spontaneous preterm births.

The tests uncovered that pregnant women living in a highly polluted area contained more black carbon particles inside their placentas. However, scientists found black carbon in all the other placentas as well.

Further research is needed to establish if the black carbon particles reach the foetus and whether this is the reason behind the birth defects linked to pollution.


This post is based on the article published by Newsweek.

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