alt="Picture of Clifton suspension bridge Bristol" " " alt="Placental Uptake and Transfer of Environmental Chemicals Relating to Allergy in Childhood Years"

Project summary


Objectives | Work Packages

This project will determine whether there is a link between exposure of the unborn child to environmental pollutants whilst in the womb and the development of allergies in early childhood.

Across Europe there is an increase in the incidence of allergy in childhood which may be linked with environmental factors as our society has become more industrialised. Allergies represent a growing socio-economic burden despite the relatively low mortality resulting from them. The effects may linger beyond childhood well into adult life resulting in an economically detrimental loss of working days due to allergy-based illnesses.

The public perception is of a link between pollution and rising incidence of allergies, respiratory diseases and cancer, but the scientific evidence needs to be obtained and assessed in an effective manner. This project will investigate the links between the incidence of early childhood allergy, maternal exposure to pollutants and the likely exposure of the unborn child.

More understanding of the relationship between environmental pollutants and development of childhood allergy and the pathways involved will enable the development of suitable strategies to combat this problem. These strategies could range from improved treatments and better nutrition to reduction in pollution as a means of improving the environment. For maximum effectiveness, such measures will need to be implemented at a European level. The availability of a group of suitable subjects across Europe will provide an invaluable opportunity for health status follow-up in future years, especially as clinical manifestation of allergy may occur at a later stage in childhood than encompassed by the current project.


Placental perfusion in the labDuring pregnancy, the placenta sustains and protects the unborn child. Many foreign substances can transfer across the placenta to reach the developing child. Contamination of the placenta with environmental pollutants provides an indicator of the individual exposure of the mother and may affect the development and health of the child both in the womb and during early childhood.

The specific objectives are two-fold:

  1. to determine whether contamination of the placenta by selected pollutants alters the immune response of the children resulting in development of allergies
  2. to determine the risk factors that may link exposure in the womb and during early childhood to the onset of allergy

A series of workpackages has been devised to achieve these objectives over a 3 year period which commenced in March 2001:

  • Recruitment of subjects and evaluation of atopic status for randomisation purposes based on specific IgE testing.
  • Measurement of maternal environmental exposure to selected chemical pollutants by analysis of placental tissue from mothers living in areas of different pollution levels.
  • Determination of risk factors for development of allergy involving prenatal exposure, placental and newborn parameters using suitable questionnaires.
  • Investigation of the relationship between placental contamination and immune parameters in placental tissue, cord blood and peripheral blood samples and incidence of atopy in early childhood. This will include measurements of placental oxidative enzyme status; cord and peripheral blood cell proliferation and Th1/Th2 cytokine responses of peripheral and cord blood mononuclear cells to food and inhalant antigens; Th1 and Th2 cytokine responses of placental trophoblast cells; specific IgE levels in cord blood serum.
  • Determination of the extent of uptake and transfer of selected chemical pollutants across the placenta in order to correlate likely fetal uptake with known maternal exposure.
  • Investigation of the relationship between postnatal risk factors and allergy development in children in the first year of life using questionnaires, clinical examination and specific IgE determination in peripheral blood sera.
  • Assessment of child pollution exposure.



Work Packages

[ Home ]

Plutocracy Logo

Site updated 24 March, 2004


This site has been designed to work in browsers and platforms which support CSS and XHTML 1.0. This includes Internet Explorer, Netscape, Mozilla and Opera. If it does not appear as it should please download the latest version of your browser.