Recent research has confirmed that toxic air pollution is affecting all of us – from the top of our heads to the tips of our toes, but black carbon (BC) has been found to have crossed the placental wall of pregnant mothers, which affects the fetus at its earliest stage of life.
When CSUSB student, Mallory Bedney, heard about the impact of pollution on pregnant women she said, “I was shocked, as I’m quite concerned for the future of our air quality and climate. I can see the toll it has taken on our health, and the fact that people may be born with health issues due to pollution and poor air quality is a real and legitimate concern.”
This discovery was in a study which was done in Belgium by Professor Tim Nawrot of Hasselt University, and it revealed that damage to the fetus has lifelong consequences. Nawrot said, “This is the most vulnerable period of life. All the organ systems are in development. For the protection of future generations, we have to reduce exposure.”
Many studies have demonstrated that pollution affects each and every one of us on a cellular level. Exposure to pollution can impact us by contributing to chronic diseases such as diabetes, all different types of cancers, illnesses in major organs such as the heart and liver, dementia, and the list goes on.
This recent research has been published in the journal of Nature Communications. The study examined 25 placentas – all from non-smoking women in the town of Hasselt, Belgium. Thousands of tiny particles per cubic millimeter of tissue were discovered in all 25 of the placentas studied with BC particles accumulated on the fetal side of the placenta.
“This is so surprising to me. I never would have thought that air pollution would be severe enough that it could even cross the placental wall. If it’s been building up in my children’s lungs since their lungs were formed, I’m concerned about the long-term health implications for them,” said Deborah Jones, mother of two from La Verne, Calif.
The study demonstrates that the placentas of mothers who lived near main roads presented with higher levels of BC (20,000 nanoparticles per cubic millimeter) compared to mothers that lived farther away from the main roads, as they experienced 10,000 nanoparticles of BC per cubic millimeter – a 50% difference in air pollution exposure.
Even though we know that pollution can be detrimental to our health – and that we should stay inside on poor air quality days – this news brings a completely different level of awareness to the impact of toxic air pollution.
One of the significant factors of this study is that it focuses on the particles getting into all areas of human tissue, not just looking at the lungs as a primary target of black carbon.
On a local level, the county of San Bernardino has recently been included in the 2019 Annual State of the Air report conducted by the American Lung Association. San Bernardino County is the number one worst air quality county out of all counties in the nation. The second and third-worst air quality counties are Riverside and Los Angeles, respectively. The State of the Air report shows that our year-round exposure to air pollution has increased – most particularly due to the increase in wildfires in the last year, as well as by the changing rain patterns due to climate change.
Bedney said, “I feel inclined to take more action to create a better future for generations to come so that my future kids will be born healthy and have a satisfactory life.”