Small study found higher risk of ADHD symptoms, other thinking and behavioral problems
WebMD News from HealthDay
By Kathleen Doheny
WEDNESDAY, March 25, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to common air pollutants before birth may make children more likely to have the symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other thinking and behavioral problems, a small new study suggests.
"Exposure to air pollution in pregnancy and during early infancy [and] early childhood seems to produce brain disturbances in the left side of the brain, in direct proportion to the amount of exposure to air pollution that women experience in pregnancy," explained study author Dr. Bradley Peterson. He directs the Institute for the Developing Mind at The Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
Peterson's team has been following 620 minority women who live in New York City. The researchers are planning to eventually scan 250 children born to the women, gathering information about the mothers' exposure to air pollutants during pregnancy and after.
For the new study, Peterson said, "we selected out 40 who had minimal exposure to other substances we know produce brain problems," so the team could focus on the effects of pollutants called PAHs.
PAH stands for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. They are common in the environment, coming from motor vehicle emissions, oil and coal burning for power or home heating, agricultural burning, wildfires, hazardous waste sites, charred food and tobacco smoke.
The children in the study have been followed from before birth through ages 7 to 9. The children and their mothers enrolled during the years 1998 through 2006.
The researchers used MRIs to measure the children's brains and tested the children to see if they had symptoms related to ADHD or other problems. They found that prenatal exposure to the pollutants was linked with thinking and behavioral problems. The greater the exposure, the worse the brain changes and the more likely the kids were to have ADHD symptoms or other issues.
In earlier research, the team had found that exposure to PAHs during gestation was linked with several problems, including developmental delays by age 3, reduced verbal IQ at age 5 and anxiety and depression by age 7.
source : Prenatal Exposure to Pollutants May Spell Trouble for Kids