Children born to mothers living in polluted areas can grow up to be less intelligent, a study suggests.
Research has shown that it is exposed to small particles of air pollution, while in the womb it can affect brain development to the extent that it dents a child's IQ.
Toxic particles can move through the placenta and cause brain damage directly, or help the placenta to work properly, scientists suggest.
Toddlers living in highly polluted areas were found to have an IQ of 2.5 points lower – and up to 6.8 points lower – by the time they were four than those who lived in the least polluted areas.
The findings contribute to growing concern about the serious damage caused by pollution, which in this case did not come from cars, but from industrial works, and which harms our health.
The same study also showed that folic acid, which is recommended for pregnant women, may protect against brain damage.
The researchers studied children living in Shelby County, Tennessee and discovered that the pollution that damaged their brains did not seem to come from traffic, but from a nearby power plant, factories, a railway depot, and an airport (stock image).
Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, looked at data from 1,005 children in Shelby County in Tennessee.
They compared the IQ & # 39; s of children, as measured in an ongoing study of the child's development, with estimates of the pollution around their homes.
PM10 particle matter was the focus of the study – these are chunks of air pollution that are so small that seven side by side would have the same width as a human hair.
PM10 particles are easily inhaled and get stuck in the body. They can come from exhausts from cars & trucks, construction sites, road dust and factories.
& # 39; We discovered that children … exposed to higher PM10 environmental concentrations in utero in early childhood had a lower IQ & # 39 ;, the researchers wrote under the direction of Dr. Christine Loftus.
However, the researchers found that close to roads did not have the same effect on the IQ, suggesting that the contamination came from elsewhere.
& # 39; We have found no evidence that IQ is associated with … prenatal exposure to traffic-related air pollution, & # 39 ;, they wrote in the paper.
& # 39; PM10 is not correlated with NO2 and the proximity of the road in this area, probably a reflection of many PM sources not related to the roadway.
DOES POLLUTION CAUSE THE DEFECTIVE DEFECTS?
Women who are exposed to air pollution before they become pregnant are nearly 20 percent more likely to have babies with birth defects, a January 2018 study suggested.
Living less than 5 km from a highly polluted area a month before conception makes women more likely to have babies with defects such as cleft palates or lips, a study from the University of Cincinnati found.
For every increase of fine particles in fine particles of 0.01 mg / m3, birth defects increase by 19 percent, the study adds.
Fine air particles, weighing less than 0.0025 mg, are emitted in vehicle exhaust gases and, when inhaled, are deposited in the lungs where they end up in the blood circulation.
Previous research shows that this causes birth defects due to women suffering from inflammation and & # 39; internal stress & # 39 ;.
Physician committee figures on birth defects affect three percent of all babies born in the US.
About six percent of children suffer in the UK, according to a report from the British Isles Network of Congenital Anomaly Registers
The researchers analyzed 290,000 babies living in Ohio between 2006 and 2010.
Monthly fine air particle levels were compared with the home addresses of pregnant women before and after coming up.
Shelby County emission inventories show that the largest PM sources in the Memphis region are a coal-fired power plant, multi-metal production plants, a petrochemical refinery and food processing plants.
& # 39; Other major causes of PM contamination are the largest cargo airport in the world and the third largest US railway center. & # 39;
Despite that, PM10 does come from cars and trucks, but also from other types of pollution, which the investigation of the Californian team did not show to be linked to IQ.
The effects on IQ have remained the same regardless of how rich a family was.
Although the study does not show that PM10 contamination directly causes the IQ decrease, the scientists offered suggestions for how this could be done.
The particles can cause inflammation – damaging swelling of the internal tissue – in the placenta, preventing the nutrients from being transported to the fetus, they said.
Or the toxic pollution can even go through the placenta and immediately damage the developing brain by disrupting the DNA.
The researchers discovered that the damage the children had to the IQs could be prevented if the mothers had a high folium content in their diet.
Folic acid is a type B vitamin that pregnant women must take to prevent their baby's backbone or brain malformations from getting into the womb.
The effects are so strong that the government introduces legislation to ensure that all bread flour contains folic acid as standard to ensure that everyone gets enough.
In the study, children whose mothers had the highest levels of folate in their diet did not have the IQ decrease, even if they lived in the most polluted areas.
In the meantime, children living in the most polluted areas and mothers with the lowest folate levels suffered even more damage to their IQ, losing 6.8 points.
& # 39; Higher folic acid levels may increase the antioxidant power of the diet, thereby hindering oxidative stress associated with PM10 exposure & # 39 ;, one of the researchers, Kaja LeWinn, said The times.
& # 39; Folate itself may also be protective, since folate plays an important role in healthy neurological development, regardless of exposure to air pollution. & # 39;
The research was published in the journal Environmental Research – the scientists said more studies should be conducted to confirm the findings.
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