The big research news this morning is a study being reported by the Associated Press that offers some strong evidence to suggest that smog can have a harmful effect on the developing brain.
The new findings come from a study of 249 children of New York City mothers that is being published this morning in the August issue of the journal Pediatrics.
As part of the study, mothers wore backpack air monitors for 48 hours during the last few months of pregnancy. By age 5, the children who had been exposed in utero to the highest levels of air pollution—most of it from car, bus and truck exhaust—scored an average of four to five points lower on IQ tests than children with less exposure. That’s a big enough difference, researchers say, to affect classroom performance.
These moms, all non-smokers, lived mostly in low-income neighborhoods in northern Manhattan and the South Bronx, but the researchers say that air pollution levels in those communities are typical of those for many large cities. Keep in mind, too, that the researchers adjusted for differences in children’s exposure to air pollutants in the years after they were born.
Are we looking at another possible cause of achievement gaps? More studies are needed to know for sure, but the researchers, in the meantime, will continue to track this group of children as they progress through school.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.