Prenatal exposure to air pollutants in New York City can adversely affect child development, according to the results of a study released today by the Columbia Center for Childrens Environmental Health (CCCEH) at Columbia Universitys Mailman School of Public Health. Previous studies have shown that the same air pollutants can reduce fetal growth (both weight and head circumference at birth), but this study, which examined a group of the same children at three years of age, is the first to reveal that those pollutants can also affect cognitive development during childhood.
The study will be published online Monday, April 24, 2006, and can be accessed at the following URL: http://www.ehponline.org/docs/2006/9084/abstract.html.
Investigators at the Center studied a sample of 183 three-year-old children of non-smoking African-American and Dominican women residing in the neighborhoods of Washington Heights, Central Harlem, and the South Bronx. They found that exposure during pregnancy to combustion-related urban air pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were linked to significantly lower scores on mental development tests and more than double the risk of developmental delay at age three. Such delay in cognitive development is indicative of greater risk for performance deficits in language, reading, and math in the early school years.
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