Fetal Dosimetry Group

Dr M. Saunders
Mr D.J. Fox
Miss C. Salisbury
Dr A.M. Palmer
Prof. A.W. Preece

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The focus of the group's work is determination of environmental-health risks to the unborn child resulting from in utero exposure. This is determined by maternal exposure to both medical and environmental compounds from a variety of external sources (food, water, air) and the level of fetal exposure is controlled by the extent to which these compounds transfer across the placenta. The bulk of our studies have assessed the risk to the fetus from radionuclides that are present in the environment or used in medical procedures e.g. iodine, strontium.

Such work has involved the development of a perfused human placenta model to determine the extent of transfer and placental uptake of these materials. The use of hard data from realistic models has allowed us to assess the radiation risk to the unborn child in the event of radiation accidents, such as that involving the reactor at Chernobyl, which may result in contamination of the food chain by environmentally important radioisotopes. Such information will help us to develop suitable strategies to help protect the unborn child.

More recently, our studies have expanded into the area of allergy and asthma. Exposure to environmental chemicals such as pesticides during pregnancy may influence the immune system resulting in a susceptibility to the development of allergy and asthma. As part of the Logo of Plutocracy project as link to sitePlutocracy project funded under the EU FP5 Quality of Life Programme, we are currently investigating the placental transfer and uptake of a selection of pesticides e.g. dichlorobenzene, DDT, DDE and polychlorinated biphenyls. Interim results have highlighted differences in the extent of placental uptake and transfer and the biodistribution of the different pesticides. Following on from this we are about to undertake a one year study funded by the Non-Medical Research Committee at UBHT to investigate the effects of pesticide exposure upon immune function in tissue culture. This study will provide more knowledge on the effects of environmental exposure upon the development of allergy and asthma.