Particles of contamination, including metals, in the placentas than 15 women in London, according to research led by Queen Mary University of London (UK).

The study, published in the journal Science of The Total Environment, shows that inhaled particulate matter from air pollution can pass from the lungs to distant organs, and that it is taken up by certain cells of the human placenta, and potentially by the fetus.

The researchers say further research is needed to fully define the direct effect that contamination particles may have on the developing fetus.

“Our study shows for the first time that inhaled carbon particulate matter in air pollution travels in the bloodstream and is absorbed by important cells of the placenta. We hope this information will encourage politicians to reduce traffic emissions in this period of job lockdown, “explains lead author Professor Jonathan Grigg.

“Pollution levels in London often exceed annual limits and we know that there is a link between maternal exposure to high levels of pollution and problems with the fetus, including risk of low birth weight. However, until now we had a limited vision of how this could happen in the body, “adds another of the authors, Norrice Liu.

Placentas from 15 consenting healthy women were donated to the study after the birth of their children at the Royal London Hospital. The exposure to pollution in 13 of the women, all of them with exposure above the WHO mean annual limit for particulate matter. The cells of the placenta were analyzed using a variety of techniques, including light and electron microscopy, X-rays, and magnetic analysis.

Black particles found very similar to the particles of contamination in the cells of the placenta of the fifteen women and these appeared in an average of 1% of the analyzed cells.

Most of the particles found in the cells of the placenta had a carbon baseBut the researchers also found trace metals such as silica, phosphorus, calcium, iron, and chromium, and more rarely, titanium, cobalt, zinc, and cerium.

Analysis of these nanoparticles strongly suggests that they predominantly originated from traffic-related sources. Many of these metals are associated with the combustion of fossil fuels, which arise from fuel additives and oil, and the wear of vehicle brakes.

“We’ve thought for a while that maternal inhalation could 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 to other places, so it was surprising to identify these particles in the cells of the placenta of the 15 participants “, details the author Lisa Miyashita.