Air pollution particles have been found on the foetal side of placentas, indicating that unborn babies are directly exposed to the black carbon produced by motor traffic and fuel burning. The research is the first study to show the placental barrier can be penetrated by particles breathed in by the mother. It found thousands of the tiny particles per cubic millimetre of tissue in every placenta analysed.
The link between exposure to dirty air and increased miscarriages, premature births and low birth weights is well established. The research suggests the particles themselves may be the cause, not solely the inflammatory response the pollution produces in mothers.
A comprehensive global review concluded that air pollution may be damaging every organ and virtually every cell in the human body. Nanoparticles have also been found to cross the blood-brain barrier and billions have been found in the hearts of young city dwellers.
While air pollution is reducing in some nations, the evidence of harm caused by even low levels is rapidly increasing and 90% of the world’s population live in places where air pollution is above World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.