Air pollution threatening the health of unborn children

New evidence has shown that air pollution can pass from a pregnant woman’s lungs to the placenta, meaning that before a baby even enters the world, their body has been exposed to pollution.

The UK study looked at 5 non-smoking women who all gave birth to healthy babies after an uncomplicated pregnancy. The women gave permission for their placentas to be studied after delivery and researchers monitored cells in them called placental macrophages. These cells are a part of the body’s immune system and help protect the foetus by engulfing harmful particles like bacteria and pollution particles. The researchers studied a total of 3,500 placental macrophage cells and found that 60 contained 72 small black areas between them. These black areas are what researchers believe to be sooty air pollution particles and on average each placenta contained around five square micrometres of the black area.

Dr Liu, one of the authors of the study says:

“We were not sure if we were going to find any particles and if we did find them, we were only expecting to find a small number of placental macrophages that contain these sooty particles”

“Our results provide the first evidence that inhaled pollution particles can move from the lungs into the circulation and then to the placenta. We do not know if the particles we found could also move across to the foetus, but our evidence suggests that this is indeed possible”

Even if the particles don’t move between the placenta and the body of the baby, they can still have an effect:

“We also know that the particles do not need to get into the baby’s body to have an adverse effect, because if they have an effect on the placenta, this will have a direct impact on the foetus”

So, where is this pollution coming from and how do you avoid it?

The particles found in the placentas of the mothers are believed to be particulate matter, also referred to as PM. They are a complex mix of solid and/or liquid particles which are suspended in the air and come in different sizes. Particles under the size of 10 micrometres are of main concern, as these are the ones that are inhalable.

Particulate Matter has been linked to a range of health impacts, including eye, nose and throat irritation, aggravation of coronary and respiratory disease symptoms as well as premature death in people with heart or lung disease.

Most people associate particulate matter with oil and gas production as well as the burning of fossil fuels, but what many people don’t know is that you can also be exposed to particulate matter indoors. Indoor particulate matter can originate from outdoor air entering the house, but it can also be generated through cooking, combustion activities (which includes the burning of candles, use of fireplaces and cigarette smoking) and indoor heaters. While you won’t want to give up on cooking in your own home, you can control the levels of PM inside your house. If your house is adequately ventilated, the levels of PM in your home are expected to be much lower. Without ventilation, the pollutants that enter or are generated within your home will become trapped within the walls of your house and in turn, you may be exposing yourself to even worse air quality than you would be if you stayed outdoors.

View our guide to effective ventilation here.

See our top tips on how to improve your homes indoor air quality here. 

Illegal levels of air pollution linked to child’s death”

A nine-year-old girl’s fatal asthma attack has been linked to illegally high levels of air pollution.

A nine-year-old girl has died from a fatal asthma attack and this is the first time an individual death has been linked to air pollution. One of the UKs leading experts, Stephen Holgate says there was a “striking association” between the girl’s emergency hospital admissions and recorded spikes in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and PM10s. Spikes in air pollution coincided with all but one of Ella’s hospital admissions and her fatal asthma attack came after one of the “worst air pollution episodes in her locality”.

With so much information now available about the health impacts of air pollution and the link to thousands of deaths in the UK, it doesn’t make any sense that no direct link to an individual death has been made earlier, says human rights lawyer Jocelyn Cockburn who is acting on behalf of the family.

The girl lived with her family near the South Circular Road and Lewisham High Street in south London, which is a heavily trafficked and polluted area. The girl’s mother said she had been treated by five different hospitals before her death, but no one had ever told her about the potential link to air pollution.

UK citizens spend on average 90% of their time indoors and around 16 hours a day in their homes. Indoor air can be up to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air, and as the girl lived in an area with high levels of outdoor air pollution this means her home, a place one would view as safe, may have been even worse for her health.

According to a government report published in 2018, poor air quality has been classified as the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK – yet, public information on the matter is still lacking.

In his report, Professor Holgate described exposure to air pollutants as a “key driver” of the girl’s disease and that “unlawful levels of air pollution contributed to the cause and seriousness of the girl’s asthma in a way that greatly compromised her quality of life and was causative of her fatal asthma attack”.

If she would have known more about the health effects of air pollution, she would have looked at moving to a different area and making sure her home was safe for her daughter to be in, says the girl’s mother.

Full article here.




Caerphilly Ventilation Manufacturer Marks ‘Clean Air Day’ with School Events

Ventilation manufacturer Nuaire, is highlighting national Clean Air Day on the 21st of June with with School Events.

BEAMA Member, ventilation manufacturer Nuaire, based in Caerphilly, is highlighting national Clean Air Day on the 21st of June with an Air Quality Interactive Workshop with a local primary school, Cwrt Rawlin. Volunteers from Nuaire will also be planting an Air Quality Garden at the school and are participating in a ‘green’ journey to work and leaving their car at home.

Air pollution harms the health of millions, leading to respiratory problems which are particularly detrimental to children and impact on their lung function growth.  According to a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report, 44 UK cities have air too toxic to breathe safely.  Caerphilly is sadly home to Wales’ most polluted road, where levels of nitrogen dioxide are higher than anywhere but central London.

Clean Air Day is celebrated annually and is co-ordinated by Global Action Plan. It is a chance to find out more about air pollution, share information with friends and colleagues, and help make the air cleaner and healthier for everyone.

As a part of this year’s Clean Air Day, Nuaire is hosting an Air Quality Interactive Workshop for a class of 30 year 3 children from Cwrt Rawlin Primary School in Caerphilly.  The workshop will feature engaging and fun presentations and scientific experiments that look at indoor air quality, how to reduce air pollutants in the home as well as a cyclone ball game where the teams will be challenged to remove the most ‘NOX particle’ balls. They will also host a factory tour of their facilities. Furthermore, as a part of the event, a team of Nuaire employees will be planting an ‘air quality garden’ at Cwrt Rawlin School to encourage school children to think about ways to reduce air pollution.

Nuarie is a large employer in South Wales with over 400 staff based in Caerphilly. For more information about Nuarie and their activities on Clean Air Day, visit their website here.

VTT-led European Project Aims for a Healthier Environment

chairs, classroom, collegeVTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is coordinating a European project called ESTABLISH, which aims to provide a healthier and safer environment and improve the quality of life for people across Europe.

This project will include a pilot experiment in Finland, which will be carried out in schools. A call is now out for Finnish schools to participate in the experiment, which will begin next autumn and focus on improving indoor air quality.

The project involves developing innovative personalised applications and services for users by combining personal physiological measurements and sensor data on the quality of indoor and outdoor air. The aim is to gain information on the effect of indoor air quality on the well-being of students and teachers as well as reliable indoor air quality measuring techniques.

The pilot experiment will involve collecting information about indoor air quality using different kinds of classroom-based sensors.

Teachers will be given wearable devices for collecting personal physiological data. They will also have access to a mobile application that they can use to give feedback on how they perceive indoor air quality and their own well-being. During the second stage of the experiment, the mobile application will be used to give teachers information relating to their working environment and their own well-being.

The pilot experiment will be carried out in the autumn of 2018, and it will run for approximately four months.

The number of sensors in our living environment is expected to increase considerably in the next few years. This presents the immense potential to develop new personalised data-based applications and services.

ESTABLISH (Environmental Sensing To Act for a Better Quality of Life: Smart Health) is a Europe-wide project consisting of 20 businesses from seven countries. The primary objective of the project is to improve people’s well-being by monitoring and improving indoor air quality. Other pilot experiments associated with this project focus on improving indoor air quality with the help of smart heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems.

This article originally appeared on Eurekalert, 12.10.2017

Indoor Air Pollution Caused by Cookstoves poses Health Risks

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are 4 million premature deaths (predominantly caused by respiratory and cardiovascular diseases) each year attributed to household air pollution created by using wood, coal and other solid fuels for cooking and heating homes.

A novel multi-country trial is being carried out by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with partial support through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to tackle the global health problem. The multimillion-dollar study will determine if using widely available, clean, alternative cooking fuel significantly reduces deaths and illnesses. The 5-year study is part of a broader international effort to research chronic lung diseases which are coordinated by the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD).

The NIH Director Francis S. Collins commented on the matter:

“Indoor air pollution caused by cookstoves is one of the top health risks in developing countries, causing deaths from low birth weight among babies, pneumonia in young children, and heart and lung problems in adults. By working with our global partners on alternative fuel solutions, we have an opportunity to reduce that risk significantly for millions of people.”

According to the WHO, there are approximately 3 billion people worldwide who are reliant on using solid fuels for both cooking and heating. The indoor pollution generated can cause a range of diseases such as pneumonia, heart disease, cancer and chronic lung disease.

The study which is led by Emory University in Atlanta plans to recruit 800 pregnant women at a number of trial sites and will randomly assign half to receive liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) stoves and a supply of gas. The trial will run until the child is 2 years old, a number of medical measurements will be then taken i.e. did the mother suffer from hypertension during pregnancy, the incidence of pneumonia and growth and development of the infants. Addition to this, several hundred older women will be assigned to each site and monitored to assess cardiopulmonary, metabolic and cancer outcomes. Biomarker analysis of blood and urine samples will also be carried out.

This cutting-edge study will hopefully provide an essential insight into the effects of air pollution produced by cookstoves reliant on LPG on health. The trial will also provide scientific evidence of potential alternatives to using solid fuels which may subsequently reduce the number of health issues related to indoor air pollution.

Improved Air Quality Correlated with Controlling Children’s Asthma

Asthma currently affects 1.1 million children in the UK, that’s 1 in 11 children receiving treatment.

Asthma is characterized by coughing, breathing difficulties, chest tightness, shortness of breath and wheezing. It has been previously reported that children with asthma should not be exposed to indoor air that’s contaminated with allergens and pollutants to reduce the risk of asthma attacks. A clinical study carried out by the American Academy of Paediatrics suggests that breathing clean air may be as effective as medications to control the disease. The report also highlights that children are more sensitive to both pollutants and allergens due to a number of biological factors, such as their lungs, brains and immune systems are still at developmental stages and their respiratory tracts are more permeable. Asthma triggers such as dust mites, mould, furry pets, sources of indoor air pollution (e.g. tobacco smoke, gas from cookers and heaters and open fires) and household chemicals such as air fresheners should all be controlled to help reduce asthma attacks and the need for medication.

For further information regarding how to cut down allergens and pollutants in your home, visit:


UNICEF Report: Indoor Air Pollution is Linked with a Range of Respiratory Diseases in Children

In recent years, a vast number of studies have been carried out to explore the detrimental effects of air pollution on health and wellbeing. In a UNICEF report, it was reported that almost one in seven of the world’s children, 300 million, live in areas with high toxic levels of air pollution.

A recent quote from UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake regarding the issues with air pollution suggests an urgency, demanding action to be taken place to combat this global issue.

“Air pollution is a major contributing factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children under five every year – and it threatens the lives and futures of millions more every day. Pollutants don’t only harm children’s developing lungs – they can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and permanently damage their developing brains – and, thus, their futures. No society can afford to ignore air pollution.”

The UNICEF report also highlights the negative implications of indoor air pollution on children; a range of respiratory diseases, as well as pneumonia, are linked with indoor air pollution. Children are more susceptible than adults to indoor air pollution, this is due to a number of biological factors, such as their lungs, brains and immune systems are still at developmental stages and their respiratory tracts are more permeable.

UNICEF is asking world leaders attending the upcoming COP 22 (Marrakesh, Morocco) to take four fundamental steps in their countries to protect children from both indoor and outdoor air pollution.

The Big Four

  • Reduce Air Pollution
  • Increase Children’s Healthcare
  • Minimise Children’s Exposure
  • Monitor Air Pollution

To achieve lower levels of air pollution UNICEF are taking drastic steps to help protect children from a range of life-threatening illnesses on international scale. Lake highlighted the significance of this global problem:

“We protect our children when we protect the quality of our air. Both are central to our future”.

Polluted home air may impede child development

Leading UK indoor air quality expert Professor Hazim Awbi is warning that children’s development could be hindered by poor indoor air quality at home, as well as at school, as a recent study reveals the overwhelmingly negative impact that poor air quality can have on the brain’s function.

Researchers at Harvard University have shown that in buildings specially designed to have low levels of pollutants, occupants have a cognitive function score that is 61% higher than „conventional conditions‟ and in buildings where effective ventilation has been installed, cognitive function is 101% improved. The study builds on research conducted in the UK showing children’s cognitive ability at school, from attention and concentration to memory and recognition, was significantly diminished in classrooms where pollutants had built up due to a lack of effective ventilation.

People in the UK spend around 90% of their time indoors with 47% of us spending over 16 hours a day at home, leading Professor Awbi to warn that children in airtight homes are likely to be at risk of suffering poor cognitive function.

“We know that young children are one of the groups who spend a large amount of time at home, especially during their early, formative years. Where there is a lack of ventilation and where pollutants are allowed to build up, children‟s brain function is affected. Homes are becoming ever more airtight, and if steps are not taken by both homeowners and the government, there could be profound consequences on children‟s learning and development.” Prof Awbi says

Polluted indoor air quality can affect the brain through blood oxygenation in 4 seconds so Professor Awbi, therefore, recommends that: “The best way to prevent indoor air pollution affecting children’s brains is to reduce the levels of potentially dangerous particles by ensuring that homes are effectively ventilated, as allowing pollutants to accumulate reduces air quality and can lead to chronic exposure”.

Polluted indoor air is also linked to a range of health conditions including cardiovascular disease, asthma, allergy, COPD and even cancer. It is estimated that indoor air pollution claims many thousands of lives a year and accounts for the annual loss of 204,129 healthy life years in the UK.