Study links air pollution exposure during pregnancy to delayed neurodevelopment in children

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A recent study linked exposure to fine particulate matter, tiny particles of air pollution, during pregnancy to delays in children’s gross motor, fine motor, and personal-social development.

The study, published in Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, was conducted by researchers from the Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at National Taiwan University Hospital, in Taipei, Taiwan. The study’s researchers set out to better understand the relationship between exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and neurodevelopment in children.

Included in the investigation were 17,683 full-term infants without congenital malformations. Each infant was assessed for developmental conditions through home interviews at six months and 18 months of age. Using hybrid kriging/land-use regression, the exposure to ambient particulate matter no larger than 2.5 μm in diameter (PM2.5) was measured during perinatal periods. Exposure was determined by each participant’s home address. To calculate the risk of neurodevelopmental delay in relation to PM2.5, researchers conducted logistic regression.

Results indicated that exposure to PM2.5 during the second trimester of pregnancy was associated with increased risk of delays in gross motor neurodevelopmental milestones in children. In addition, delays in fine motor development were linked to exposure to PM2.5 during the second and third trimesters. Researchers determined that delayed neurodevelopment was unrelated to postnatal exposure to PM2.5.

To conclude, the study’s authors said their findings suggested that there was a significant association between exposure to ambient PM2.5 during pregnancy and a delay in gross motor, fine motor, and personal-social development, highlighting the importance of the avoidance of air pollution.

“Protection of children from air pollutants needs to be started during their mothers’ pregnancy,” said corresponding author Yue Leon Guo, MD, MPH, PhD, of National Taiwan University Medical School and Hospital.