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Truth Behind the Headlines: Traffic fumes found in pregnant women's placentas

Researchers believe that pollution breathed in by expectant mothers can travel by the bloodstream to the placenta, after finding particulates in the placentas of healthy women who are routinely exposed to highly polluted air.


They hope their work will encourage policy makers to take steps to reduce air pollution.

Using our recommended five tips, Global Action Plan reviewed the study:


Questions to ask to get to the truth Our response
1. Does the article refer to a report to back up its claims?

The article refers to a study published by researchers in the Journal of Science of The Total Environment. 

2. Who is behind the study it refers to?

The study was led by researchers at Queen Mary University of LondonScientists from University of LancasterBarts Health NHS TrustUniversity of ManchesterUniversity Hospital NHS Foundation TrustKing's College LondonUniversity of BirminghamUniversity of Oxford and University of Leeds were also involved in the study.  

3. How fantastical and radical is the claim that is being made?

The researchers estimated that, as all of the women involved in the study lived in London, they were all exposed to levels of pollution above World Health Organisation limits. The women’s placental cells were analysed and all showed black particles that closely resembled PM2.5 (particulate pollution).  

They suggest that particulate matter in air pollution, travels in the bloodstream, and is taken up by important cells in the placenta. 

They believe, due to the composition of the matter, that it originates from traffic sources.  


4. What geographical region does the claim refer to?

The research was carried out on women based in London, UK. But researchers believe the results can be applied to women worldwide.  

5. What is the sample size of the study?

The researchersanalysed the placentas of 15 healthy women following the birth of their children. 


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