Pregnant women’s exposure to pollutants harms kids

The exposure of pregnant women to PAH air pollutants - fumes from diesel, petrol and coal - can saddle their children kids with behavioural problems, a new study says.

The study followed the children of 253 non-smoking inner-city women who gave birth between 1999 and 2006, the journal Environmental Health Perspectives reported.

Researchers led by Frederica Perera, director of the Columbia University Centre for Children’s Environmental Health, measured two complementary indicators of PAH exposure.

One indicator was the PAH concentration in air from personal air sampling which took place during the third trimester of pregnancy, according to a university statement.

The other was a specific biological marker of exposure — PAH-DNA adducts (product of a direct addition of two or more distinct molecules) measured in maternal blood and newborn umbilical cord blood.

When inhaled by the mother during pregnancy, PAH can be transferred across the placenta and bind to the DNA of the foetus, forming “adducts” in blood and other tissues and providing a biologic measure of pollutant exposure.

Mothers completed a detailed assessment of their child’s behaviour (whether the children experienced symptoms of anxiety, depression, or attention problems).

High foetal PAH exposure, whether characterized by personal air monitoring or maternal and newborn cord adducts, was significantly linked with symptoms of anxious / depressed and attention problems.

“The results are of concern because attention problems and anxiety and depression have been shown to affect peer relationships and academic performance,” said Perera.

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