"We expected the placenta to protect fetuses from the mother’s exposure to tiny amounts of carbon monoxide,” said John Edmond, professor emeritus of biological chemistry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "But we found that not to be the case."
The researchers exposed pregnant rats to 25 parts per million carbon monoxide in the air, an exposure level established as safe by Cal/OSHA, California’s division of occupational health and safety.
Dr. Ivan Lopez, UCLA associate professor of head and neck surgery, tested the rats’ litters 20 days after birth. Rats born to animals who had inhaled the gas suffered chronic oxidative stress, a harmful condition caused by an excess of harmful free radicals or insufficient antioxidants.
"Oxidative stress damaged the baby rats’ brain cells, leading to a drop in proteins essential for proper function," said Lopez. "Oxidative stress is a risk factor linked to many disorders, including autism, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease, multiple sclerosis and cardiovascular disease. We know that it exacerbates disease.”
No policies exist to regulate the gas in the home. Most commercial home monitors sound an alarm only hours after concentrations reaches 70 parts per million — nearly three times the 25 parts per million limit set by Cal/OSHA.