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Nat Commun. 2019 Sep 17;10(1):3866. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-11654-3.

Ambient black carbon particles reach the fetal side of human placenta.

Author information

1
Centre for Environmental Sciences, Hasselt University, Agoralaan Building D, 3590, Diepenbeek, Belgium.
2
Biomedical Research Institute, Hasselt University, Agoralaan Building C, 3590, Diepenbeek, Belgium.
3
Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis, KU Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200F-box 2461, 3001, Leuven, Belgium.
4
Department of Obstetrics, East-Limburg Hospital, Schiepse Bos 6, 3600, Genk, Belgium.
5
Centre for Environmental Sciences, Hasselt University, Agoralaan Building D, 3590, Diepenbeek, Belgium. tim.nawrot@uhasselt.be.
6
Department of Public Health and Primary Care, KU Leuven, Herestraat 49-box 706, 3000, Leuven, Belgium. tim.nawrot@uhasselt.be.

Abstract

Particle transfer across the placenta has been suggested but to date, no direct evidence in real-life, human context exists. Here we report the presence of black carbon (BC) particles as part of combustion-derived particulate matter in human placentae using white-light generation under femtosecond pulsed illumination. BC is identified in all screened placentae, with an average (SD) particle count of 0.95 × 104 (0.66 × 104) and 2.09 × 104 (0.9 × 104) particles per mm3 for low and high exposed mothers, respectively. Furthermore, the placental BC load is positively associated with mothers' residential BC exposure during pregnancy (0.63-2.42 µg per m3). Our finding that BC particles accumulate on the fetal side of the placenta suggests that ambient particulates could be transported towards the fetus and represents a potential mechanism explaining the detrimental health effects of pollution from early life onwards.

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