lungs

Air pollution makes our kids dumber and sicker

Two recent studies suggest that air pollution at levels common in urban areas causes children to have higher rates of a potentially fatal lung infection and reduces the IQ levels of the kids exposed most heavily in the womb.

All this happens at air-pollution levels common in urban areas. 

The finding about the dumber kids exposed in the womb comes out of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environ­mental Health in New York City, where scientists equipped expectant mothers to wear air-pollution monitors as they went about their daily routine.

One finding, outlined in Scientific American this week and much earlier on a site called babycenter.com: Pregnant women who experienced the highest exposures to pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons had children with IQ scores four points lower on average than kids born to less-exposed mothers. SciAm's Sunny Sea Gold's story says there's more from another study:

Children’s growing brains are not the only ones affected by this dirty air. A 2008 study in 20- to 50-year-olds conducted jointly by the schools of public health at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pinpointed ozone-related reductions in attention, short-term memory and reaction times equivalent to up to 3.5 to five years of age-related decline.

Meanwhile, here in Rain City, MSNBC and Discovery News bring us the tale of  University of Washington researcher Catherine Karr, who just released a study stating that ongoing exposures to air pollution increases a baby's chances of coming down with a lung infection called bronchiolitis.