March 11 (UPI) -- Pregnant mothers who inhale pollution may be damaging the cardiovascular systems of their unborn children, a new study says.
Fetuses exposed to nano-sized titanium dioxide aerosols in the first trimester suffered damage to their main artery and umbilical vein, according to research published March in Cardiovascular Toxicology. Exposure in the second or third trimester restricted blood flow to the fetuses, which led to smaller growth than usual. The experiment was conducted on lab rats.
"These findings suggest that pregnant women, women of child-bearing years who may be pregnant and those undergoing fertility treatments should avoid areas known for high air pollution or stay inside on high-smog days to reduce their exposure," said Phoebe Stapleton, a researcher at Rutgers University and study author, in a news release.
Even one exposure of the particle to nonpregnant animals could harm their uterus arteries.
"Pregnant women should also consider monitoring their indoor air quality," Stapleton said.
Annual global production of nano-size titanium dioxide particles is expected to reach 2.5 million metric tons by 2025, the study says. The particles are found in common air pollution, along with sunscreens and other facial powders.
"Although nanotechnology has led to achievements in areas such as vehicle fuel efficiency and renewable energy, not much is known about how these particles affect people at all stages of development," Stapleton said.