Air Pollution Linked to Diminished IQ in Children (As if Asthma Wasn’t Enough)

A new study published in the August 2009 edition of Pediatrics shows a possible disturbing correlation between increased urban air pollution and decreased IQ points in children. The study sites polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), or “chemicals released into the air from the burning of coal, diesel, oil, and gas, or other organic substances such as tobacco” as the major perpetrators of inner- city air pollution, with a particular focus on motor vehicle use.

The study followed hundreds of expectant mothers of every race who lived in Washington Heights, Harlem, or the South Bronx in New York, and “the children were followed from in utero to 5 years of age,” their mothers wearing personal air monitors during their pregnancy “to measure exposure to PAHs.” When the children reached 5 years old, they were given an intelligence test, with outside factors such as quality of childcare, second-hand smoke exposure, lead, and mother’s education were taken into account. 140 of the 249 children tested were found to have had “high PAH exposure”, and were found to have 4.31-4.67 fewer IQ points than their lesser- exposed peers, a figure that a doctor working on the project likened to “low level lead exposure.”

The research was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the EPA, and several private foundations and was conducted at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

To read the original news release, click here

How will these findings effect inner- city schools and the policies that surround them? Is it ironic, knowing what we know now,  that such schools are often punished for low test scores? Comment.

by M. Molendyke

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