Fetuses more vulnerable to some environmental contaminants penetrating into cord blood

June 26, 2015, Pohang University of Science & Technology

Toxic environmental contaminants are increasingly known to cause a number of severe health problems, in particular on fetuses, including heart failure, low cognitive ability, delayed development, and neurobehavioral disorders.

A new research featured in the Environmental Science and Technology published by the American Chemical Society suggests that the fetus is more vulnerable to some pollutants with certain properties because they penetrate further into the feto-maternal system. The research found that distributions of pollutants and the mechanisms of distributions vary depending on each pollutant's physicochemical characteristics.

Led by Dr. Yoon-Seok Chang, a professor of the School of Environmental Science and Engineering at Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), Korea, the research team analyzed a series of (POPs) and in the samples of cord blood, maternal blood, maternal urine, and placenta from new-born babies and their mothers. The contaminants include mercury, lead, cadmium, dioxins (PCDD/Fs, PBDD/Fs), dioxin-like compounds (PCNs, PCBs), and brominated flame retardant (PBDEs).

By looking into the concentration levels of toxins in each part of the feto-maternal system, Chang and the researchers have confirmed that all pollutants in the mother's blood are transported to the fetus through the placenta and cord blood.

Despite the fact that most of the contaminants are slightly filtered when passing through the placental barrier, all heavy metals seem to easily pass through the barrier. Lead is hardly affected, and mercury accumulates even more in the fetal blood than the maternal blood due to its binding affinity to fetal proteins. PBDEs are similarly detected higher in the cord blood due to its unique distribution mechanisms strongly associated with the thyroid hormone, deduced by the researchers.

The study has also brought much deserved attention to the prenatal exposure to POP candidates, of which no previous studies seriously considered, as PCNs and PBDD/Fs are detected in the cord blood for the first time. PCNs and PBDD/Fs' dioxin-like structure and growing discharge into the environment are worthy of public concern.

"When environmental contaminants are accumulated in a pregnant mother, the fetus is also directly exposed to them, meaning the adverse effects of POPs and heavy metals last generation after generation," says Chang, the leader of this study. While planning on follow-up research for more comprehensive understanding of the distribution, interrelation, and health effects of various contaminants, Chang has emphasized efforts to reduce human exposure to and discharge of .

Titled "Partitioning Behavior of Heavy Metals and Persistent Organic Pollutants among Feto-Maternal Bloods and Tissues," this study was supported by the National Research Foundation, Korea, and by the Environmental Health Action Program of the Korea Ministry of Environment.

Explore further: Placenta reflects arsenic exposure in pregnant women and fetuses, study shows

Related Stories

Placenta reflects arsenic exposure in pregnant women and fetuses, study shows

April 2, 2015
The placenta can be used to reliably measure arsenic exposure in pregnant women and how much of the toxic metal is transferred to their fetuses, a Dartmouth College study shows.

Researchers design placenta-on-a-chip to better understand pregnancy

June 18, 2015
National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers and their colleagues have developed a "placenta-on-a-chip" to study the inner workings of the human placenta and its role in pregnancy. The device was designed to imitate, on ...

Prenatal exposure to combustion-related pollutants leads to anxiety, attention problems in young children

March 22, 2012
Mothers' exposure during pregnancy to a class of air pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) can lead to behavioral problems in their children. PAH are released to air during incomplete combustion of fossil ...

NZ toxic contaminant levels halved, study shows

November 21, 2013
Blood samples taken by Massey researchers to measure the concentrations of toxic environmental contaminants, called persistent organic pollutants (or POPs), show their levels halved in the past 15 years among New Zealand's ...

Fetal neuromaturation associated with mother's exposure to ddt and other environmental contaminants

June 11, 2013
A study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has for the first time found that a mother's higher exposure to some common environmental contaminants was associated with more frequent and ...

Fish consumption advisories fail to cover all types of contaminants

April 17, 2014
A new modeling study suggests that fish consumption advisories for expecting mothers are ineffective in reducing infant exposure to long-lived contaminants like persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

Recommended for you

Hair products for Black women contain mix of hazardous ingredients

April 25, 2018
A new report published today in the journal Environmental Research shows that Black women are potentially exposed to dozens of hazardous chemicals through the hair products they use.

Mediterranean diet boosts beneficial bacteria

April 25, 2018
Here's another reason to eat a Mediterranean-type diet: It's good for your gut.

Consuming protein supplements with meals may work better for weight control

April 25, 2018
A new systematic review of available evidence appearing in Nutrition Reviews indicates that consuming protein supplements with meals may be more effective at promoting weight control than consuming supplements between meals ...

Drinking affects mouth bacteria linked to diseases

April 24, 2018
When compared with nondrinkers, men and women who had one or more alcoholic drinks per day had an overabundance of oral bacteria linked to gum disease, some cancers, and heart disease. By contrast, drinkers had fewer bacteria ...

Potential for sun damage should be carefully balanced with need for vitamin D in children, say scientists

April 24, 2018
Scientists at King's College London are encouraging parents and carers to ensure even more rigorous protection of children against the harmful effects of the sun. The comments follow a study which has suggested that children ...

Millennials aren't getting the message about sun safety and the dangers of tanning

April 24, 2018
Many millennials lack knowledge about the importance of sunscreen and continue to tan outdoors in part because of low self-esteem and high rates of narcissism that fuel addictive tanning behavior, a new study from Oregon ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.