Silver nanoparticles inhaled during pregnancy reach and affect the placenta and the foetus

Nanotoxicology. 2017 Jun;11(5):687-698. doi: 10.1080/17435390.2017.1343875. Epub 2017 Jul 7.


Recently, interest for the potential impact of consumer-relevant engineered nanoparticles on pregnancy has dramatically increased. This study investigates whether inhaled silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) reach and cross mouse placental barrier and induce adverse effects. Apart from their relevance for the growing use in consumer products and biomedical applications, AgNPs are selected since they can be unequivocally identified in tissues. Pregnant mouse females are exposed during the first 15 days of gestation by nose-only inhalation to a freshly produced aerosol of 18-20 nm AgNPs for either 1 or 4 h, at a particle number concentration of 3.80 × 107 part./cm-3 and at a mass concentration of 640 μg/m³. AgNPs are identified and quantitated in maternal tissues, placentas and foetuses by transmission electron microscopy coupled with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and single-particle inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Inhalation of AgNPs results in increased number of resorbed foetuses associated with reduced oestrogen plasma levels, in the 4 h/day exposed mothers. Increased expression of pregnancy-relevant inflammatory cytokines is also detected in the placentas of both groups. These results prove that NPs are able to reach and cross the mouse placenta and suggest that precaution should be taken with respect to acute exposure to nanoparticles during pregnancy.

Keywords: Silver nanoparticles; embryo; inhalation exposure; placental barrier; pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytokines / analysis
  • Female
  • Inhalation Exposure* / adverse effects
  • Inhalation Exposure* / analysis
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Metal Nanoparticles* / administration & dosage
  • Metal Nanoparticles* / toxicity
  • Mice
  • Placenta* / chemistry
  • Placenta* / drug effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Silver* / administration & dosage
  • Silver* / pharmacokinetics
  • Silver* / toxicity


  • Cytokines
  • Silver