New Study Shows Air Pollution Lowers IQ

Air Pollution

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As a pollutant polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (or PAH’s as we call them in the business), are of concern because they have been identified as carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic (not good things if you were wondering). PAHs are created as a byproduct of the burning of coal, oil, and fossil fuels. Often they are of concern in urban areas where there is a higher carbon footprint, and it forms that nice cloud of yellow smoke you see floating over some of your major cities.

Now, new research out of Columbia University is showing that exposure to PAHs, can reduce neonate’s intelligence. The study performed in New York city where PAHs are in no short demand, showed IQ scores that were 4.31 and 4.67 points lower, respectively than those of less exposed children.





The children were followed from in utero to 5 years of age, while the mothers wore air monitors during pregnancy to measure exposure to PAHs. At 5 years of age the children were given IQ tests, and after adjustment for maternal intelligence, quality of the home caretaking environment, environmental tobacco smoke exposure, and other potentially confounding factors; exposure to high PAH levels in utero showed statistically significant lower IQ scores.

So don’t everyone go rush out of the major cities because you are afraid of losing all your smarts. That will just make even more traffic, and I hate traffic. However, if you are a pregnant woman you might want to consider a less urban environment. I recommend an island, or some other tropical locale.

Reference: Perera et al. Prenatal Airborne Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Exposure and Child IQ at Age 5 Years. Pediatrics, August 2009; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2008-3506

-Image Credit: ninahale on Flickr










About the Author

Daniel is a graduate of University of Southern California with a degree in Biology and Anthropology. He attended Wrigley Institute of Environmental Studies located on Catalina Island where he did environmental research and marine biology. Daniel has also spent time studying primate social behavior. He currently attends medical school at PCOM-GA. You may contact Daniel on his website http://www.danielhohler.com or on twitter @danielhohler.
  • Robert Stockham

    I have long suspected there was something going on. I think if we keep up this track that we are all on, we won’t have sufficient brains left to turn the situation around!

  • As an anthropologist, I have a treat for you all tomorrow.