Ambient black carbon particles reach the fetal side of human placenta

Hannelore Bove, Eva Bongaerts, Eli Slenders, Esmée M Bijnens, Nelly D Saenen, Wilfried Gyselaers, Peter Van Eyken, Michelle Plusquin, Maarten BJ Roeffaers, Marcel Ameloot, Tim S Nawrot (see publication in Journal )


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 x 10^4 (0.66 x 10^4) and 2.09 x 10^4 (0.9 x 10^4) particles per mm^3 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 ug per m^3). 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.