Boulder, Colorado — Could a move to the countryside help future mothers have smarter children? Specifically, researchers from Colorado state that 2-year-olds exposed to air pollution in utero were more likely to have lower cognitive scores afterward. The alarming study also found that prenatal exposure to air pollution can lead to motor coordination and language problems.
According to the study authors, this is one of the first research projects to assess the relationship between prenatal exposure to pollutants and early childhood brain development. It supports other studies that have found developmental changes in children after exposure to air pollution.
Researchers tracked the health of 161 Latino mothers and their children in Southern California. The mother provided detailed background on her past life circumstances and during her pregnancy. The team then matched the address to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality System, which keeps records of road traffic, industry, wildfire smoke, and other pollutants in the area.
When infants turned 2 years of age, they underwent several neurodevelopmental tests measuring cognitive, motor, and language abilities. The study authors also considered other factors that may influence child development, including how often babies were breastfed, premature birth, baby birth weight, and socioeconomic status of the family.
Clean air is especially important late in pregnancy
Pregnant mothers regularly exposed to air pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) 10 and PM 2.5 had lower infant cognitive scores. , had the lowest neurodevelopmental scores. Overall, 16% of her infants had cognitive scores indicative of some degree of neuropathy. Researchers say the timing of the exposure of the fetus to air pollution is also important. Mid to late pregnancy air pollution worsened neurodevelopmental outcomes in infants.
“The brain develops differently during different stages of pregnancy, and disruption of the brain at a critical time can affect its developmental trajectory,” said lead author of the study at the University of Colorado, Boulder. One Zach Morgan said in a media release.
Later in pregnancy, the brain creates neural connections and circuits that assume sensory, communication, and motor systems, the team explains.
Another explanation proposed by the study authors for why air pollution causes harmful neurological damage is that inhaled pollutants come into direct contact with the fetus. The particles can activate the immune system, cause excessive inflammation and oxidative stress, and interfere with brain development. Evidence has been found that it can promote
What can mothers do to avoid air pollution?
Because the study only included Latino infants, it is not yet clear whether the results would be similar for other races or ethnicities. We tend to live in conditions. However, the findings of this study provide a better understanding of how air pollution affects disadvantaged communities and what steps families can take to protect the health of their children. It is the starting point for
But just because a woman is exposed to high levels of airborne pollutants doesn’t mean her child will have cognitive impairment, warns Tanya Alderete, assistant professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder. doing. Studies show that this risk increases only in second and third trimester pregnant women living in these settings. She advises pregnant women to avoid exercising outside on days with poor air quality, invest in air filtration systems in their homes, open windows while cooking, and avoid second-hand smoke. .
“This is just one of the many things a would-be parent should know to get their child off to the best start possible,” says Alderete.
The research is published in the journal Environmental health.