Mother’s Exposure to Urban Air Pollutants Affects Children’s Cognitive Abilities

An NIEHS-supported study carried out in Krakow, Poland reports prenatal exposure to air pollutants adversely affected the cognitive development of children at age five. These findings confirm a similar study conducted earlier in New York City.

The study was conducted in a cohort of 214 children born to healthy non-smoking women in Krakow, Poland between 2001 and 2006. During pregnancy, the mothers wore small backpack mounted personal air monitors to estimate their babies’ exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are released into the air as fossil fuels are burned for purposes such as transportation, heating, and energy production. Exposure to these compounds is widespread in urban environments throughout the world.

At age five, the children took a standard intelligence examination. They were divided into two groups: children with exposures higher and lower than the median prenatal exposure to PAHs (17.96 nanograms/cubic meter of air). Children in the high exposure group scored worse on the intelligence exam by about 4 IQ points. This effect was comparable to the study conducted with the New York City children and is similar to studies on lead poisoning. The finding is of concern because IQ is an important predictor of future academic and economic performance.

Citation: Edwards SC, Jedrychowski W, Butscher M, Camann D, Kieltyka A, Mroz E, et al.(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20406721) Exit NIEHS 2010. Prenatal Exposure to Airborne Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Children’s Intelligence at Age 5 in a Prospective Cohort Study in Poland. Environ Health Perspect. Apr 14. [Epub ahead of print]
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SOURCE: Environmental Factor – May 2010 Issue | http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2010/may/science-extramural.cfm#mother

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