Air Pollution causes Negative Changes in a Baby’s gut

Exposure to air pollution in infancy affects a child’s developing gut.


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Our environment is significantly affected by increasing pollution. This damage can cause various deadly diseases in human beings. The air pollutants are directly linked with the composition and function of the gut microbiome in adults. But this is neglected in infancy as exposure to air pollution in the first six months could affect a child’s inner world of gut bacteria or microbiome, which increases the risk of allergies, obesity, and diabetes and impacts brain development.

Current research regarding pollution causing changes in Baby’s gut:

The study published in the journal Gut microbes shows the connection between inhaled pollutants from traffic, wildfires, and industry and changes in infant microbial health during the developmental stage.

Researchers of the same found similar changes in young adults. The infant gut microbiome matures in the first 2-3 years of life, which has long-lasting health impacts. If a gut microbiome misses any bacteria, it may increase the risk of future diseases such as altered immune development metabolism and development of the enteric nervous system.

So, it is essential to detect it in early life. Young adults from south California showed that ambient air pollution (AAP) exposure was associated with the functional potential of the gut microbiome.

Another study also showed that gut microbiota mediates associations between AAP and risk for fasting glucose and type2 diabetes. This indicates that inhaled pollutants may potentially impact the human gut microbiome.

How can air pollutants affect a baby’s gut?

At the time of birth, an infant has some bacteria. Within the first two to three years, exposure to mother’s milk, solid foods, antibiotics, and environmental influences shape which microorganisms take hold. Those microbes, metabolites, or by-products form when food or chemicals break down in the gut, causing an impact on the host body system creating appetite, insulin sensitivity, immunity, mood, and cognition.

Some microbiome compositions are related to Chron’s disease, asthma, type 2 diabetes, and chronic diseases. “The microbiome plays a role in nearly every physiological process in the body, and the environment that develops in those first few years of life sticks with you,” said first author Maximilian Bailey, who graduated in May with a master’s in Integrative Physiology and currently he is studying in Stanford university.

Researcher’s opinion regarding changes in baby’s gut due to air pollution:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality System records hourly data from monitoring systems, estimated exposure to PM2.5 and PM10 (Fine inhalable particles from things like factories, wildfires, and construction sites), and nitrogen Dioxide, a gas from cars.

“Overall, we saw that ambient air pollution exposure was associated with a more inflammatory gut-microbial profile, which may contribute to a whole host of future adverse health outcomes,” said Alderete. He also found that pregnant women exposed to air pollution at the time of pregnancy have babies that grows fast in the first month of birth faces obesity in later life.

Infants are more prone to air pollution as they breathe faster than their gut microbiome; this can make early life more critical as exposure to air pollution can cause adverse health effects.

“Breast milk is a fantastic way to develop a healthy microbiome and may help offset some of adverse effects from environmental exposures,” said Aldetrete.

Overall research and study, we can conclude that there is a significant relationship between exposure to ambient air pollution and infant gut microbiota which can cause adverse effects on future infant health and development. It should be considered that exposure to air pollution is the most risk factor for children.

Journal Reference

  1. Maximilian J. Bailey, Elizabeth A. Holzhausen, Zachariah E. M. Morgan, Noopur Naik, Justin P. Shaffer, Donghai Liang, Howard H. Chang, Jeremy Sarnat, Shan Sun, Paige K. Berger, Kelsey A. Schmidt, Frederick Lurmann, Michael I. Goran & Tanya L. Alderete. Postnatal exposure to ambient air pollutants is associated with the composition of the infant gut microbiota at 6-months of age. Postnatal exposure to ambient air pollutants is associated with the composition of the infant gut microbiota at 6-months of age. Gut Microbes, Volume 14, 2022 – Issue 1 DOI: 10.1080/19490976.2022.2105096


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