Unborn babies are particularly sensitive to cancer-causing pollutants found in the air, report researchers who studied pregnant women and their newborn babies .Past studies in mice have shown exposure to pollutants is more harmful to fetuses than their mothers, despite the fact the placenta filters out most of the pollutants. These researchers wondered if the same was true in humans.
Researchers collected blood samples from 265 mothers and their newborn babies looking for biomarkers indicating exposure to proteins known as carcinogen-DNA adducts, and cotinine, a component of cigarette smoke. All mothers in the study were nonsmokers.
Even though the mothers were exposed to 10-times more of the pollutants, the newborns had evidence of DNA damage comparable to that found in their mothers. The infants actually had more cotinine in their systems than their mothers, suggesting exposure to secondhand smoke is especially dangerous for pregnant women.
These results raise serious concern,say researchers and they caution that fetal susceptibility to DNA damage from air pollution, including motor vehicle emissions and secondhand smoke, has important implications for cancer risk and developmental problems.