After conducting a study at Columbia University, scientists found a higher risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children whose mothers were exposed to pollution while pregnant. Findings of the study are published in the PLos One journal.
The study consisted of 233 non-smoking pregnant women living in New York. Of these participants, scientists found exposure to high levels of pollution during their pregnancy produced a five times greater risk of their children having ADHD by the age of nine.
Conducted over a nine-year period, the study consisted of taking measurements of common pollutants polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs. Scientists measured levels of PAHs in DNA material, as well as umbilical cord blood. Soon after the babies were delivered, levels were measured in the baby’s urine as well.
Scientists discovered that 33 children had high levels of PAH exposure and of those 13 were given a firm diagnosis of ADHD hyperactive-impulsive subtype, 7 had the inattentive subtype, and 13 had both subtypes.
Professor Federica Perera, the first author of the study stated that the odds of developing symptoms associated with ADHD were five times greater in children whose mothers were exposed to high levels of PAHs.
Pollutants such as oil, gas, coal, and rubbish are burned but because they do not burn easily, some remain in the environment for a significant period of time, which are then inhaled.
Prior to this latest study, Professor Perera and her team of qualified scientists identified connections between high levels of prenatal PAHs exposure and developmental delays in children under the age of three. Previous studies also revealed that by the age of five, these children have lower IQ levels and by age seven, often suffer from depression and anxiety.
According to Professor Perera, this new study is the first to link prenatal PAHs exposure and symptoms of ADHD. She also pointed out that if the results of the study can be replicated, it would be beneficial in finding new, better, or stonger methods of preventing ADHD.
She concludes by saying that prenatal PAHs is one possible contributor but that the study’s findings need to be followed up on in order for preventative strategies to be identified and implemented. She advised pregnant women to consume lots of fresh produce, which has been proven to help offset the effects of pollutants.