Friday, September 4, 2009
How Toxic Air May Lower Your Child's Intelligence
(NaturalNews) Planning on starting a family? Determined to provide the healthiest environment possible for your kids? If you live in an urban environment, you might want to look for a new place to live with cleaner air. City pollution has long been known to contribute to high blood pressure (http://www.naturalnews.com/024110_p...), eye irritation, heart problems (http://www.naturalnews.com/024691_h...) and asthma. But now scientists have found that a mother's exposure to chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) widely found in urban air can adversely affect a child's intelligence level. Bottom line: bad air is bad for kids' developing brains and could also be contributing to the dumbing down of Americans. PAHs are released into the air from the burning of coal and tobacco. In cities, the main source of PAHs is motor vehicles that run on diesel, oil and gas. The new study, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several private foundations, found that youngsters exposed to high levels of PAHs in New York City had full scale and verbal IQ scores that were 4.31 and 4.67 points lower than children with less exposure to these chemicals. A difference in four or more points on these intelligence tests is believed to make a significant difference on how well kids perform in school and how high they score on standardized tests, the researchers noted in a statement to the media. "The decrease in full-scale IQ score among the more exposed children is similar to that seen with low-level lead exposure," lead author Dr. Frederica P. Perera, professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and director of the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health, stated. The study, conducted by Dr. Perera and other scientists from the Columbia University Center for Children's Environmental Health, included children whose moms were non-smoking black and Dominican-American women between the ages of 18 and 35 living in Washington Heights, Harlem or the South Bronx in New York. The children were followed from the time they were in the womb to age five. In order for the researchers to measure pre-natal exposure to PAHs, the mothers wore personal air monitors during pregnancy and they also filled out questionnaires about their environment. Study participants who were exposed to air pollution levels below average were designated as having low exposure, while those exposed to pollution levels higher than the median were identified as high exposure. Specifically, high PAH levels were defined as above the median of 2.26 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m3). The researchers took into consideration other factors that could impair intelligence such as second-hand smoke exposure, lead in the environment, the mother's education and the quality of the home caretaking environment.Then, when they were five years old, 249 of the children in the study were given the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of the Intelligence test, which provides verbal, performance and full-scale IQ scores. "This research clearly shows that environmental PAHs at levels encountered in an urban setting can adversely affect a child's IQ," said Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of NIEHS. "This is the first study to report an association between PAH exposure and IQ, and it should serve as a warning bell to us all. We need to do more to prevent environmental exposures from harming our children."In addition to avoiding living in polluted cities if at all possible, there are other strategies parents can turn to in order to protect and even boost the brain power of their children. For example, as reported in NaturalNews, breastfeeding babies (http://www.naturalnews.com/024474_b...) raises IQ levels and fish oil (http://www.naturalnews.com/026167_i...) has been shown to improve intelligence levels of teens. Another smart idea: avoid exposing your offspring to neurotoxic chemicals such as fluoride (fluoride http://www.naturalnews.com/023896_f...).