Air Pollution And Its Harmful Effects On A Baby’s Gut


A study by the University of Colorado Boulder research suggests that a child’s inner gut bacteria or microbe are impacted by air pollution during the first six months after birth. Moreover, it can increase the risk of allergies, diabetes, obesity, and influence brain development.

The study was published in the journal Gut Microbes. It showed a link between inhaled pollutants like wildfires and traffic and the changes it causes in an infant’s microbial health during this critical development window.

Furthermore, similar results were found in young adults by the same research group

Tanya Alderete, senior author said,

This study adds to the growing body of literature showing that air pollution exposure, even during infancy, may alter the gut microbiome, with important implications for growth and development

Environmental Influences – Are they a Hazard?

When babies are born, they host very less resident bacteria. However, exposure to their mother’s milk, food, antibiotics, and other influences of the environment shape the holding mechanisms of microorganisms. The metabolites, microbes, or bi-products that are produced have an impact on multiple bodily systems when broken down. Furthermore, these systems shape the appetite, immunity, insulin sensitivity, cognition, and mood. Additionally, although a lot of them may be of benefit, some of the microbe compositions may have an association with asthma, Chron’s disease, diabetes type 2, and other chronic illnesses.

Maximilian Bailey, the first author said,

The microbiome plays a role in nearly every physiological process in the body, and the environment that develops in those first few years of life sticks with you

The researchers used 103 healthy faecal samples for the study. They have mostly breastfed Latino infants with enrollment in the Southern California Mother’s Milk Study. However, they used genetic sequencing for the analysis.

The data was taken from the Air Quality System of the US Environmental Protection Agency. It records data every hour through the monitoring systems. The exposure was estimated to be PM 2.5 and PM 10. These included fine inhalable particles. For example, wildfires, factories, and constructions, in addition to large emissions of Nitrogen Dioxide from cars.

Alderete said,

Overall, we saw that ambient air pollution exposure was associated with a more inflammatory gut-microbial profile, which may contribute to a whole host of future adverse health outcomes

Moreover, infants are vulnerable to health hazards caused by air pollution. The reason is that their breathing is faster and that their gut microbe is being shaped.

Alderete added,

This makes early life a critical window where exposure to air pollution may have disproportionately deleterious health effects


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