Air pollution may impact fetal cardiovascular system, study

Exposure to ultrafine particulates, the smallest particles in air pollution, restricts blood flow and nutrients to the uterus.


Exposure of the maternal environment to engineered nanomaterials (ENM) during pregnancy has been shown to impact the health of the dam, fetus, and adult offspring. Similarly, such microscopic particles can damage fetal cardiovascular development, suggests a new study.

The study suggests that early in the first trimester and late in the third trimester were critical windows during which pollutants most affect the mother’s and fetus’ cardiovascular systems.

Phoebe Stapleton, assistant professor at Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy said, “These findings suggest that pregnant women, women of child-bearing years who may be pregnant and those undergoing fertility treatments should avoid areas known for high air pollution or stay inside on high-smog days to reduce their exposure.

What a mother inhales affects her circulatory system, which is constantly adapting to supply adequate blood flow to the fetus as it grows. Exposure to these pollutants can constrict blood vessels, restricting blood flow to the uterus and depriving the fetus of oxygen and nutrients, which can result in delayed growth and development. It can also lead to common pregnancy complications, such as intrauterine growth restriction.

Scientists observed the circulatory systems of pregnant rats and their fetuses were affected by a single exposure to nanosized titanium dioxide aerosols — a surrogate for particles found in typical air pollution — during their first, second and third trimesters. The results were compared to pregnant rats that were exposed only to high-efficiency filtered air.

The specialists found that exposures to contamination early in gestation fundamentally impact a fetus’s circulatory framework, explicitly the primary artery and the umbilical vein. Later exposure had the most effect on fetal size since the restricted bloodstream from the mother denies the baby of supplements in this last stage.

In non-pregnant animals, even a solitary introduction to these nanoparticles has been connected to a debilitated capacity of the veins in the uterus. The investigation found that one presentation late in pregnancy can limit maternal and fetal bloodstream, which can keep on influencing the child into adulthood.

Stapleton said, “Although nanotechnology has led to achievements in areas such as vehicle fuel efficiency and renewable energy, not much is known about how these particles affect people at all stages of development.”

By 2025, the annual global production of nanosize titanium dioxide particles is projected to reach 2.5 million metric tons. Besides representing the very small particles found in air pollution, titanium dioxide also is commonly used in many personal care products including sunscreens and face powders.

The study is published in the journal Cardiovascular Toxicology.

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