The dispersion of black carbon into the environment is a problem that can affect pregnant women and fetuses. A study, entitled Maternal exposure to ambient black carbon particles and their presence in maternal and fetal circulation and organs: an analysis of two independent population-based observational studies, published on the The Lancet, explained: "Maternal exposure to particulate air pollution during pregnancy has been linked to multiple adverse birth outcomes causing burden of disease later in the child's life.
To date, there is a paucity of data on whether or not ambient particles can both reach and cross the human placenta to exert direct effects on fetal organ systems during gestation. Methods: In this analysis, we used maternal-perinatal and fetal samples collected within the framework of two independent studies: the ENVIRONAGE birth cohort of mothers giving birth at the East-Limburg Hospital in Genk, Belgium, and the SAFeR cohort of terminated, normally progressing pregnancies among women aged 16 years and older in Aberdeen and the Grampian region, UK.
From the ENVIRONAGE study, we included 60 randomly selected mother-neonate pairs, excluding all mothers who reported that they ever smoked. From the SAFeR study, we included 36 fetuses of gestational age 7-20 weeks with cotinine concentrations indicative of non-smoking status.
We used white light generation under femtosecond pulsed illumination to detect black carbon particles in samples collected at the maternal-fetal interface. We did appropriate validation experiments of all samples to confirm the carbonaceous nature of the identified particles.
Findings: We found evidence of the presence of black carbon particles in cord blood, confirming the ability of these particles to cross the placenta and enter the fetal circulation system. We also found a strong correlation between the maternal-perinatal particle load and residential ambient black carbon exposure during pregnancy.
Additionally, we found the presence of black carbon particles in first and second trimester tissues of electively terminated and normally progressing pregnancies from an independent study. We found that maternally inhaled carbonaceous air pollution particles can cross the placenta and then translocate into human fetal organs during gestation.
These findings are especially concerning because this window of exposure is key to organ development. Further studies are needed to elucidate the mechanisms of particle translocation."