While a mom’s belly should be the safest place for a developing baby to start his life, his mom’s exposure to toxins will affect the children’s life even after birth. The evidence is clear: prenatal toxins and stressors can matter to his future. Besides adding to this evidence, this study also confirms biological individuality. Not every child suffers the same ill effects as others because individual genetics determine how impactful a given toxin is on a person.
Researchers from the University Children’s Hospital in Basel, Switzerland analyzed data from the Bern Basel Infant Lung Development (BILD) cohort study in regards to the levels of 1 proteins measured in newborn’s cord blood. The 449 healthy babies in this BILD study were divided into different groups based on the levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and PM10 (particulate matter of 10 microns size). The researchers’ prior analyses had shown that newborns demonstrated changes in their lung function and immune function from such toxins. This study looked at whether these toxins could affect autophagy and ageing processes in the newly born babies.
Autophagy processes concern how our cells recycle themselves and various damaged components, like proteins, to prevent the accumulation of potentially harmful materials. Think about our cells and organs taking trash out regularly so it doesn’t get in the way. Ageing processes and cell remodeling methods are needed for our bodies to continue functioning long term.
The researchers looked at NO2 and PM10 since they are common sources of pollution from vehicle emissions along with smoke and wear from tires or brakes. By looking at which babies were exposed to more of these toxins and comparing the levels to the levels of 11 different potential proteins, they found changes in autophagy and in levels of 3 proteins. For two proteins, SIRT1 and IL-8, their levels were decreased while another protein, Beclin-1, increased in those exposed to more NO2 and PM10. Some lesser changes in other inflammatory related proteins were also noted.
While those findings were clearly related to levels of NO2 and PM10 exposure, they also noted patterns which did not depend solely on the amount of toxin exposure. While their study did not elucidate the reasons why, they hypothesized that genetic differences played a role in these variations.
Ultimately, moms and their babies need clean air, at least as clean as possible. We live in a fallen world where some toxins are a part of life, but we can work as individuals and as a society to make an expecting mother’s exposures as low as possible. That work includes educating others about the results of these studies as well as working to influence our world to care better for our air and water sources, particularly on a local level. Helping everyone live healthier, more abundant lives requires this and more.
Watson, P. (2023, September 12). Exposure to air pollution while in the womb is linked to adverse changes in cell processes in new-born babies – ers – european respiratory society. ERS. https://www.ersnet.org/news-and-features/news/exposure-to-air-pollution-while-in-the-womb-is-linked-to-adverse-changes-in-cell-processes-in-new-born-babies/
Thanks to Science Daily:
European Respiratory Society. “Exposure to air pollution while in the womb is linked to adverse changes in cell processes in new-born babies.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 September 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/09/230912110206.htm>.
Other Studies with Similar Findings:
University of Edinburgh. “Air pollution poses risk to thinking skills in later life.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 February 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210202113744.htm>.
Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “Mix of stress and air pollution may lead to cognitive difficulties in children.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 January 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200116155436.htm>.
The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “Prenatal air pollution exposure linked to infants’ decreased heart rate response to stress.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 October 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191030073326.htm>.
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