General overview

INMA – INfancia y Medio Ambiente [Environment and Childhood] Project is a research network of several Spanish groups that created a project with the aim to study the paper of the more relevant environmental pollutants in the air, water and diet during the pregnancy and beginning of life, and their effects in the growth and development.

The physical, social and intellectual development of the children, from the conception to end of the adolescence, requires an atmosphere protected and protective of its health. The increase of diseases is related to non-healthful atmospheres. The prenatal and in the beginning of the life exposures, including diet, are associated to the children’s health and human development and ready later effects in adults.

In this way, the INMA Project is based on three main bases:

Firstly, the exposure to environmental polluting agents by air, water and feeding is universal. The children are specially vulnerable to their effects, because they are not little adults, but they are in growth process, and their immunological system and mechanisms of chemical decontamination are not completely developed. Thus the children are more vulnerable than the adults to environmental exposures.

Persistent polluting agents as the organochlorine compounds (OC) and other metals have been related to the delay in the intrauterine growth, prematurity, delay in the postnatal growth and alterations in neurodevelopment and in their conduct.

Polluting agents of the air, for example the fine particles, have been associated to an increase of children mortality and to problems of health like the asthma, allergies and neurodevelopment.

Fewer evidences exist on the effects of many polluting agents during the foetal period, creating therefore the need of new studies with the purpose of collecting more data. Moreover, some products in the water, called disinfectant products, have been associated to reproductive problems.

Secondly, some polluting agents and nutrients have the same route of ingestion.

The fish, the main source of Omega 3, is also carrying OC and methylmercury. The breastfeeding, the only form of nutrition during the first month of life, brings both nutrients and polluting agents. Although the mechanisms of toxicity of OC are not known, it is thought that metabolic and hormonal mechanisms, underlying in the neurotoxicity of these polluting agents, work similarly to the deficiency of some essential fatty acids.

It is still to explain if the nutrients can balance the negative effects of the polluting agents on health.

Thirdly, very little is known about the individual susceptibility of certain chemical agents, and that is why there is a need of more studies integrating gene-environment interactions.