September 21, 2017

Urban Air Pollutants Can Damage IQs before Baby’s First Breath

A study in Krakow, Poland, corroborates New York City findings that link children’s lower IQ scores with mothers’ exposure to compounds created by burning fossil fuels

 By Marla Cone, Emily Elert and Environmental Health News

 In a sweltering summer in New York City back in 1999, Yolanda Baldwin was eight months pregnant with her first child. She lived near a gas station and across the street from an intersection choked with exhaust-spewing cars and buses. Sometimes the air was so thick with pollution that she could see it, breathe it, smell it, even taste it. And she often wondered what it might be doing to her unborn child.

Now Baldwin and several hundred other mothers whose sons and daughters have been monitored for a decade have an answer: Before children even take their first breath, common air pollutants breathed by their mothers during pregnancy may reduce their intelligence . A pair of studies involving more than 400 women in two cities has found that 5- year-olds exposed in the womb to above-average levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, score lower on IQ tests. The compounds, created by the burning of fossil fuels, are ubiquitous in urban environments.

 

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