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Air Pollution & Pregnancy

May 20, 2010

Exposing pregnant women to a common air pollutant may impact their children’s intelligence.


Polluting young minds. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Air pollution may adversely affect a child’s intelligence – starting in the womb. This according to a study in Krakow, Poland, led by Columbia University environmental health scientist Frederica Perera. Her team monitored healthy, non-smoking pregnant women for exposure to common air pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAH’s. The children of women with higher PAH exposure scored lower on cognitive tests at age five.

FREDERICA PERERA (Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia Univ.):
And that’s of concern because of the link between such tests and future academic performance.

The study controlled for such factors as the mother’s education, and exposure to secondhand smoke and lead. Perera says the only real way to reduce the risk of PAH’s is to produce less of them, by burning less fossil fuel. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.