Environmental pollution, whether it comes from road traffic or from factories and steel mills, has a harmful effect on health; even more about the newborn, but also about the fetus.
A study by the University of the Basque Country points out that the effects of this contamination disappear in babies breastfed with breast milk in the first four months of life.
According to the results, breastfeeding plays a protective role against these two atmospheric pollutants. Aitana Lertxundi, lead author of the work, has studied how exposure to environmental pollution during pregnancy affects health, as well as the role of diet in physical and neuro-behavioral development in childhood. The study - published in Environment International - has focused on the impact that exposure to pollutants PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) have on motor and mental development in the first years of life.
For the first time there has been such a sustained evaluation over time –began 2006–, significant and recent on its incidence on mental development from the prenatal phase until the baby is 15 months old.
"In the fetal phase, the central nervous system is being formed and lacks sufficient detoxification mechanisms to eliminate the toxins that accumulate," says Lertxundi. PM2.5 particles measure less than 2.5 microns, that is, they are four times thinner than hair and are suspended in air. Because they are so small, they easily penetrate the body, and because they weigh so little, they expand without difficulty through the air and move away from the initial source of emission. The composition of these neurotoxic particles depends on the emission sources in the area.
The work has made it possible to detect the inverse relationship between exposure to polluting particles and the motor development of babies. In this sense, the researcher highlights that "the indices show the relationship between air quality and motor development".
Analysis of the data also shows that neither PM2.5 nor NO2 have a harmful effect on babies who are breastfed for at least four months. The follow-up study began in 2006, when the mothers were pregnant, and continues today, when the girls and boys are eight years old.