Pollution making its way to unborn babies via placenta - study

Pollution could be making its way to babies through the placenta, a new study has revealed.

Researchers at Hasselt University in Belgium found black carbon particles on the foetal side of the placenta in pregnant people exposed to pollution. 

The researchers used high resolution imaging to examine 28 placentas and found carbon in amounts ranging between 0.63 and 2.42 micrograms per cubic metre.

Black carbon particles are released into the air mostly due to fossil fuel combustion. They're believed to affect the baby and could lead to lower birth weight.

University of Otago medical school Associate Professor Christine Jasoni told Newshub low birth weight is a problem.

"Low birth weight babies have much more difficulties thriving so there's much greater increase in the likelihood of infant death."

But she's not sure about what could be done next.

"Even if we can't do anything about the pollution and the inhalation of the pollution, perhaps we could at least protect individuals and their babies."

The study says more research needs to be done to see if it is the carbon in the placenta that causes difficulties or another element of pollution.

Assoc Prof Jasoni told Newshub there is no certainty over which particle is being problematic.

"Or if there's something else that people are breathing in the polluted air that we haven't yet identified that's actually causing the detrimental effect, so becomes very difficult to figure out a strategy."

The study was published in scientific journal Springer Nature.