Air Pollutants May Damage IQs Before Baby's First Breath

"In a sweltering summer in New York City back in 1999, Yolanda Baldwin was eight months pregnant with her first child. She lived across the street from a busy intersection and often wondered what the fumes might be doing to her unborn child. Now Baldwin and several hundred other mothers whose sons and daughters have been monitored for a decade have an answer: Before children even take their first breath, common air pollutants breathed by their mothers may reduce their IQs. A pair of studies involving more than 400 pregnant women in two cities has found that 5-year-olds exposed in the womb to above-average levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, score lower on IQ tests. The compounds, created by the burning of fossil fuels, are ubiquitous in urban environments. Columbia University scientists say their findings in Poland, published in April, bolster New York City data because they found the same effect in different conditions, in different parts of the world. This “adds to a growing literature implicating exposures to environmental toxicants with stunting of children's intellectual abilities,” said Bruce Lanphear of Simon Fraser University. "

Marla Cone and Emily Elert report for Environmental Health News July 26, 2010.

Source: EHN, 07/26/2010