Children who live near busy roads run a greater risk of developmental delays, a new study finds.
Researchers say that children who live less than a third mile away from crowded roads such as highways and highways are twice as likely to score lower on tests of communication skills in childhood and early childhood.
Living near roads means that they are exposed to air pollution and and small harmful particles from exhaust systems and nearby power plants.
They also discovered that exposure in the womb to the small particles was associated with a small but higher chance of motor skills delays such as hand-eye coordination, crawling and walking.
The team, from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), says that although the cause cannot be determined, the findings demonstrate how & # 39; careful & # 39; it is to limit exposure to air pollution during pregnancy, infancy and early age. childhood.
A new study by the National Institutes of Health has shown that children who are less than a third mile off major roads are more likely to experience developmental delays than children who live more than a kilometer away (file image)
According to a 2013 study from the University of New Mexico, around 60 million Americans – one-fifth of the American population – live near a road with higher air pollution.
No less than 13.8 million of them are 18 years and younger.
Previous studies have also linked exposure to pollutants during pregnancy with a higher risk of premature birth and stillbirth, but few have looked at the potential risk of cognitive development.
For the new study, published in the journal Environmental Research, the team analyzed data from the Upstate KIDS Study.
The study, run by the National Institutes of Health, looks at the motor and social development of children born between 2008 and 2010 in the state of New York.
Researchers linked the home address, the mother's address and the daycare address of more than 5,000 participants on the nearest major road and measured the air pollution levels at each location.
From eight months to three years old, the children were tested two to three times a year for fine motor skills, large motor skills, communication, personal social functioning and problem-solving abilities.
Children who lived up to a third kilometer off a main road were twice as likely as those who lived more than a kilometer away to fail the communication test.
"Tests were age dependent, but they could fail by not understanding the direction or talking back to the parents," senior author Dr. Pauline Mendola, a researcher in the Intramural Public Health Research Department at NICHD, at DailyMail.com.
& # 39; Are they essentially on schedule for development or has development been delayed? & # 39;
The team also looked at PM2.5 exposure, tiny particles from various sources, including power stations, exhaust systems, aircraft, forest fires, and dust storms.
PM2.5 particles are small – about three percent the diameter of a human hair – so that they can stay in the air longer than heavy particles, increasing the risk of inhalation.
Once inhaled, their size makes it much easier for these toxic particles to get into the lungs and possibly get into the bloodstream.
Studies have shown that exposure to fine particles increases the risk of lung disease and heart disease and worsens chronic conditions, including asthma and bronchitis.
At present, the World Health Organization estimates that seven million people die each year from exposure to such pollution, with most deaths occurring in low- and medium-income countries, especially in Africa and Asia.
Children who were prenatally exposed to high PM2.5 levels had an almost three percent higher risk of failing tests in one of the five skills.
Previous studies have shown that PM2.5 causes oxidative stress, an imbalance in the body between free radicals and the ability to neutralize their harmful effects with antioxidants, leading to developmental delays.
Dr. Mendola says the findings prove that for both mothers and children it might be & # 39; wise & # 39; to limit exposure to air pollution.
& # 39; That would mean trying to avoid exposure to major roads, & # 39; she said. & # 39; You know, if you have young children, do you want to cycle with your children in a carriage on a big road? If you can avoid it, then it is something to think about. & # 39;
The team says the results suggest that early childhood exposure may pose higher risks than uterine exposure, but further studies are needed.
Dr. Mendola says she would also like to study the effects of air pollutants on the cardiometabolic health of children.
& # 39; We are learning more and more about how the environment influences development and it is worth paying attention to: & # 39; Can we do things to make it better? & # 39; & # 39 ;, she said.
& # 39; And that would be great. A healthy environment that is healthy for children is healthy for everyone. & # 39;
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