Here’s another reason to be careful what you’re exposed to while you’re pregnant. According to a new study, kids who are exposed to high levels of air pollution in utero are five times more likely to develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than their less-exposed peers.
To conduct the study, Fredrica Pereta, a professor at New York Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and her team measured levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (a component of air pollution) in the umbilical cord blood of 250 expectant mothers. They examined their children at age 9, taking PAH exposure into account.
Just over one-third of these kids had high prenatal PAH exposure, and that group was five times more likely to have “moderately to markedly atypical” scores when tested for their ability to pay attention. And these children were at three times higher risk of a high score when tested for all ADHD symptoms.
Pereta says that environmental exposures are preventable, and protective strategies can be taken. New York City, for example, has already started to reduce PAH levels by enacting anti-idling regulations for trucks and buses, and requiring new city buses to use cleaner fuels.
“Policies can make a difference and air pollution is the responsibility of policymakers,” she says.
She adds that women who are concerned about the risk of exposure to air pollution to eat plenty of fresh produce, since good nutrition can help to offset the effects of pollution.