A fetus already comes into contact with soot particles after 12 weeks of pregnancy.
When burning fossil fuels such as diesel, soot particles end up in the air that are carcinogenic. Scientists have long suspected that soot particles can be transferred via the placenta to the fetus, just like nutrients and oxygen. But so far that has never really been established. Dr. Tim Nawrot and dr. Hannelore Bové from the UHasselt did succeed.
Bové examined 28 placentas with a laser technique with which she could already detect soot particles in urine and blood samples. For ten mothers who were exposed to a high degree of air pollution during pregnancy (2.42 micrograms per m3), she found a high concentration of soot particles in the placenta. With ten mothers exposed to a low degree of air pollution (0.63 micrograms per m3), the concentration of soot particles in the placenta was significantly lower.
It was also striking that there was a higher concentration of soot particles on the fetal side of the placenta than on the mother’s side. This means that soot particles gradually accumulate on the fetus side.
The impact of soot pollution on the fetus and on the child later, the researchers do not yet know. That still needs to be investigated. However, air pollution has already been associated with premature births and with a lower birth weight. Moreover, it is certain that in the early phase of pregnancy, in which Bové and Nawrot were able to determine soot pollution, the child is very vulnerable because it is just then fully under development .
At the moment there are no guidelines on how many soot particles are allowed in the air. But the researchers are convinced that intervention is necessary: ’Just as we now look back with surprise at the fact that smoking was still permitted everywhere a few decades ago, we will look back to this era of soot pollution in fifty years and we will be shocked to see it there. have done so long, so little against it, “says Nawrot.