Children who live near busy roads are at greater risk of developmental delays, a new study finds.
Researchers say that children who live less than a third of a mile away from high-traffic roads such as motorways and highways were 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 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 greater 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 show how “sensible” it is to be exposed to air pollution during pregnancy, infancy and early childhood. limit childhood.
A new study by the National Institutes of Health has shown that children who are less than a third of a mile away from main roads are more likely to experience developmental delay than children who lived more than half a mile 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 more 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, conducted by the National Institutes of Health, looks at the motor and social development of children born from 2008 to 2010 in the state of New York.
Researchers matched the home address, the work address of the mother and the daycare address of more than 5,000 participants with the nearest main road and measures air pollution 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 mile off a main road were twice as likely as children who lived more than half a mile away to pass the communication test.
“Tests depended on age, but they could fail to misunderstand the direction or not give speech back to the parents,” said senior author Dr. Pauline Mendola, a researcher at the Intramural Public Health Research Department at NICHD, at DailyMail.com.
“In principle, are they on course for development or has development been delayed?”
The team also looked at exposure to PM2.5, small particles from various sources, including power plants, exhaust systems, aircraft, forest fires and dust storms.
PM2.5 particles are small – about three percent of the diameter of a human hair – so 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 can increase the risk of lung and heart disease and can aggravate chronic conditions such as asthma and bronchitis.
Currently, the World Health Organization estimates that seven million people worldwide die from exposure to such pollution, with most deaths occurring in low and middle income countries, especially in Africa and Asia.
Children who were prenatally exposed to high PM2.5 values had an almost three percent higher risk of failing 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 counteract their harmful effects with antioxidants, leading to developmental delays.
Dr. Mendola says the findings show that it is “sensible” for both mothers and children to limit exposure to air pollution.
“That would mean trying to avoid exposure to major roads,” she said. ‘You know, if you have young children, do you want to ride a bike on a big road with your children? If you can avoid it, it is something to think about. ”
The team says the results suggest that early childhood exposure may involve higher risks than uterine exposure, but further investigation is needed.
Dr. Mendola says she also wants to study the effects of air pollutants on the cardiometabolic health of children.
“We are learning more and more about how the environment influences development and it is worth paying attention to:” Can we do things to make it better? ‘, She said.
“And that would be great. A healthy environment that is healthy for children is healthy for everyone. “