Sounds entirely plausible

Soot particles have been discovered in the placentas of pregnant women for the first time, leading scientists to warn that pollution may directly harm unborn babies.

Researchers discovered small black areas in the organ that surrounds the foetus in five mothers-to-be who were living in London.

Until now there has only been limited evidence that inhaled pollution particles can access the bloodstream via the lungs.

But the discovery of carbon particles in an organ so crucial for pregnancy helps explain data suggesting that women living in polluted areas are more prone to premature birth and having low-birthweight babies.

Assume that the particles can get into the blood. The placenta is where we’d rather hope that some such would get caught, that being what it is, a blood filter. And yes, OK, assume all of that and maybe we have found one of the reasons why air pollution causes low birth weights.

Now, I’ve no specialist knowledge at all so don’t know whether the basic assumption is sensible or not. BiG will know.

OK. Then there’s the joy of Telegraph reporting, the placenta surrounds the foetus, does it?

And then there’s the big point. Lucky we’ve reduced air pollution in recent decades then, isn’t it? Which presumable is why babies are bigger these days?

17 thoughts on “Sounds entirely plausible”

  1. Pretty much everything you can measure in the environment will turn up in some human organ at measurable concentrations. Some organs have a nasty habit of concentrating such gunk too.

    The only question of importance is “at what concentration does x have a measurable effect on health “. Unfortunately that is oftrn very hard to answer, on both the population and individual level (as people vary, viz teetotallers with liver disease and drunks without).

    I would be reasonably confident that, except in newly industrialised places with inadequate environmental legislation, placental soot concentrations are at their lowest level since man discovered fire.

  2. Decnine,

    Sample size isn’t really a problem for a qualitative demonstration that something happens.

    And in macrophages? Wow, golly. What a shock. Placenta quite probably chosen because it’s bloody easy to get a biopsy (you get at least one used in good condition and unwanted for free with every delivery).

  3. Some do like them with fava beans and a nice Chianti, but not so many that you can’t get hold of placentas pretty easily.

  4. BiG: good points. They should have a control sample group from a rural African area where “hut lung” is a thing (which especially affects women who do the cooking).

  5. Does the data exclude confounding data, I wonder?

    1. Premature births being due to modern medical technologies, not soot. Before 1970s there were no premature births, just miscarriages which did not survive.

    2. Low birth-weight associated with delivery of under-developed fœtus, not soot.

  6. Bloke in North Dorset

    Jim’s correct about discounting the first 3 or even 4 years of Brown’s years. But that doesn’t tell the whole story and we probably need to look at dBorrowing/dt, or something similar.

  7. It’s junk science. The whackos are trying to find a different angle to get people to accept that the disproven PM2.5 scare is real.

    The Telegraph has no conscience.

  8. Policy based evidence making again. With modern analysis equipment it’s possible to find some concentration of almost anything everywhere. From the article….

    They studied 3,500 macrophages, immune system cells that engulf harmful particles, finding that 60 cells that between them contained 72 small black areas, which they believe indicate carbon particles.

    That “they believe” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in everything else that follows.

  9. “They studied 3,500 macrophages, immune system cells that engulf harmful particles, finding that 60 cells that between them contained 72 small black areas, which they believe indicate carbon particles.”

    Body and immune system doing it’s job then. Move along, nothing here.

    Recounting an earlier story: the small black particles – from poppy seed muffins?

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