New Delhi: A study has found evidence of tiny carbon particles in placenta for the first time, highlighting the alarming impact that air pollution could have on unborn babies.

“Our results provide the first evidence that when pregnant women breathe polluted air, the pollution particles can move from the mother’s lungs into the bloodstream and then to the placenta," said Dr Norrice Liu, clinical research fellow at Queen Mary University of London, UK, who presented the study conducted by the university’s researchers at the European Respiratory Society International Congress, held recently in Paris.

The findings are especially significant for India, where air pollution has reached alarming levels in several cities.

Researchers examined the placenta of five pregnant, non-smoking women from London, who underwent planned caesarean section deliveries. A total of 3,500 placental macrophage cells from five placentas were studied. Researchers found 60 cells that contained 72 small black areas, believed to be carbon particles. On an average, each placenta contained around five square micrometres of this substance.

“Air pollution has reached alarming levels in India and babies are not even protected in the womb. It is time serious action is taken, for it is crucial for the health of our future population," said Dr Suneeta Mittal, director and head of department, obstetrics and gynaecology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon.

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