There is increasing concern about the potential effects of traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) on the developing brain. The impact of TRAP exposure on childhood behavior is not fully understood due to limited epidemiologic studies, according to the study’s abstract.
In this new study conducted by faculty members from the UC College of Medicine’s Department of Environmental Health in collaboration with Nicholas Newman, DO, MS, Medical Director, Environmental Health and Lead Clinic, Assistant Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics and first author of study examined the link between early life exposure to TRAP using the surrogate, elemental carbon attributed to traffic (ECAT), and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms at age seven.
For the study the team collected on exposure to ECAT during infancy and behavioral scores at age seven were collected utilizing the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution (CCAAPS) birth cohort, a long-term epidemiological study examining the effects of traffic particulates on childhood respiratory health and allergy development which was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, CCAAPS is led by Dr. Grace LeMasters, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Cincinnati.
For the study newborns in the Cincinnati metropolitan area, were followed through the age of seven. Parents completed the Behavioral Assessment System for Children, 2nd Edition (BASC-2), assessing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and related symptoms including attention problems, aggression, conduct problems and atypical behavior. Of the 762 children initially enrolled in the study, 576 were included in the final analysis at 7 years of age.
The results showed children who were exposed to the highest tertile of ECAT during the child’s first year of life was significantly associated with hyperactivity T scores in the “at risk” range at age seven, after adjustment after adjustment (aOR=1.7; 95% CI: 1.0, 2.7). the higher air pollution exposure was associated with a significant increase in hyperactivity only among those children whose mothers had greater than a high school education. Mothers with higher education may expect higher achievement, he says, affecting the parental report of behavioral concerns.
In their conclusion the team writes “ECAT exposure during infancy was associated with higher hyperactivity scores in children; this association was limited to children whose mothers had more than a high school education.”
Professor Newman commented “The observed association between traffic-related air pollution and hyperactivity may have far-reaching implications for public health.”He further adds noting that studies have shown that approximately 11 percent of the U.S. population lives within 100 meters of a four-lane highway and that 40 percent of children attend school within 400 meters of a major highway.
“Traffic-related air pollution is one of many factors associated with changes in neurodevelopment, but it is one that is potentially preventable.”
This study is published today in Environmental Health Perspectives, a peer-reviewed open access journal published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), an institute within the National Institutes of Health (NIH).