Air pollution particles have been found in the lungs and brains of unborn babies. The research team said their discovery was very worrying, as the most vulnerable stage of human development is the fetus's time in the womb.

Thousands of black carbon particles were found in each millimetre of tissue, which were breathed in by the mother while she was pregnant.

Babies with low birth weights and disturbed brain development are more likely to suffer from the effects of dirty air. The new study shows how that harm could be caused. Scientists said pollution could cause long-term health problems.

The particles are made of soot from the burning of fossil fuels in homes and factories and cause inflammation in the body and carry toxic chemicals. The study was done with non-smoking mothers in Scotland and Belgium.

Prof Paul Fowler, at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, said that they had shown for the first time that black carbon nanoparticles can enter the first and second trimesters of a pregnant woman's body.

He said that the particles get into the human brain. It is possible for these nanoparticles to interact with control systems.

Air quality regulation should act to protect the most susceptible stages of human development, according to Prof Tim Nawrot.

He said people should avoid busy roads when possible.

Prof Jonathan Grigg at Queen Mary University of London found air pollution particles in the placenta. The new study shows that the particles get into the unborn babies.

There could be lifelong consequences for the child if particles get into the brain of a pregnant woman. It's worrying, but we don't know what happens when the particles lodge in various sites and slowly excrete their chemicals

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Air pollution may be damaging every organ in the human body according to a global review. Billions of tiny particles have been found in the hearts of city dwellers. More than 90 percent of the world's population live in places where air pollution is high.

Air pollution particles were found in every sample of lung, liver, and brain tissue examined in the new research. When the mother lived with higher levels of pollution, the concentration of particles was higher.

In the Scottish part of the study, 36 foetuses were examined from voluntary abortions of normal progressing pregnant women. The window of exposure is important to organ development. After healthy births, cord blood samples were taken.