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Study Provides Evidence that Prenatal Exposure to Environmental PAHs May Be Linked to Lower Children’s IQ Scores

Wildfire A study from the Columbia Center for Childrens Environmental Health (CCCEH) published in the August 2009 issue of the journal Pediatrics, that has found evidence of a link between levels of a common urban air pollutant and childrens IQ test scores. The study, conducted by one of the Centers for Childrens Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research jointly funded by the U.S. EPAs STAR Grants program and the National Center for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), shows children exposed to high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in New York City air (above the median in the group studied of 2.26 ng/m3) scored more than 4 points lower on standardized intelligence tests at age 5 compared with less-exposed children. This is the first study to show a link between PAH exposure and IQ scores in children.

PAHs are byproducts of incomplete combustion and levels are generally higher in urban areas. Outdoor sources include diesel and gasoline engines, service stations, coal-fired power plants and tar plants. Indoor sources include cigarette smoke, wood-burning fireplaces, candles and incense. Urban minority populations represent high-risk groups, both from disproportionate exposure to air pollution and for adverse health and developmental outcomes. PAHs are of specific concern given the higher susceptibility of fetuses and young children to environmental pollutants.

This study has been reported by other key news sources:

For more detail on the paper published in Pediatrics, Vol. 124 No. 2 August 2009, pp. e195-e202: Prenatal Airborne Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Exposure and Child IQ at Age 5 Yearsexit EPA

For more information on CCCEH and its research:

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