Can pollution affect my child’s IQ?
"These findings are of concern because these decreases in IQ could be educationally meaningful in terms of school performance," says Frederica Perera, the study's lead author and the Columbia Center's director, adding that the effects of PAHs were similar to the findings of the damage caused by low-level lead exposure. "This finding is of concern because IQ is an important predictor of future academic performance, and PAHs are widespread in urban environments and throughout the world."
Several other U.S. and international studies in 2009 and 2010 found evidence suggesting that common urban pollutants affect more than just intelligence in kids. Frequent exposure has also been linked to low birth weight and small head circumference as well as miscarriage and preeclampsia (hypertension during pregnancy). "Some researchers believe that traffic pollution acts like secondhand smoke or marijuana use, restricting oxygen and nutrients delivered to the fetus," reports Hilary Evans in E - The Environmental Magazine, adding that others believe that prenatal exposure to pollutants changes human cell development and causes problems later in life.
Columbia's Perera is optimistic that we can work our way out of such problems. "Fortunately, airborne PAH concentrations can be reduced through currently available controls, alternative energy sources and policy interventions," she says. Indeed, urban planners, regulators and eco-entrepreneurs are experimenting with different methods of reducing smog and other pollutants in problem areas. But until such techniques are perfected and clean-up mandates enforced, those living near busy roadways or otherwise polluted areas put their families at risk every time the front door opens.
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