FILED IN: Health

Child behavior issues linked to smog inhalation

A new study of pregnant, inner-city women reveals link to depression, anxiety, and inattention in children

Smog might cause child's behavior issues says study. Photo via Tyra Koppenol.

The inhalation of smog—the name we give to that nasty, polluted, fog-like haze hanging precariously overhead—is a huge concern for pregnant women, a new study reports.

“This study provides new evidence that prenatal exposure to air pollution at levels encountered in New York City can adversely affect child behavior.” Frederica Perera, director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, told HealthDaily News.

Pregnant women with smog exposure are more likely to have children who suffer from depression, anxiety, and attention disorders by the age of seven. The results came after the conclusion of a study with 253 pregnant volunteers during the years of 1999-2006, all who lived in what’s considered “inner-city” areas. None of the participants had a history of smoking. During the research, doctors drew blood samples and measured the exposure rates to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), the toxins thrust into the atmosphere from car emissions and burning of fossil fuels. The PAH exposure levels during pregnancy were then compared to the behavior reports after the children were born.

“Symptoms of anxiety and depression were 45 percent higher in the higher exposure group versus the lower,” Perera told HealthDaily. Not only were higher levels of anxiety and depression noted, women with higher PAH levels also had children with a 28 percent greater incidence of attention issues.

The study will continue to follow the children until they reach 12 years of age. Unfortunately, though a link was discovered between high PAH levels and certain developmental issues, it was not a direct link. Medical experts are yet unsure as to why PAH levels affect children in the womb, though they suspect it has something to do with the chemicals inhibiting proper endocrine function, thus inhibiting brain development.