Air Pollution During Pregnancy is associated with Psychomotor Development

Study published in Epidemiology


A study led by CREAL, an ISGlobal Research Centre and published in Epidemiology, concluded that air pollution, especially nitrogen dioxide (NO2) coming mainly from motor traffic, during pregnancy is associated with psychomotor development in childhood.

Accumulating evidence from experimental studies suggests that air pollution may have an impact on the development of the central nervous system. The aim of the study was to assess whether air pollution exposure during pregnancy affects cognitive and psychomotor development in childhood.

 The researchers analysed data from six European birth cohort studies from Germany, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain. These studies recruited mother-child pairs from 1997 to 2008. Levels of air pollution were measured in the study regions between 2008 and 2011, including nitrogen oxides (NO2, NOx), particulate matter with diameters less than 2.5μm (PM2.5), less than 10μm (PM10) and intermediate particles (2.5 to 10μm). Levels of air pollution were estimated at the house of the women during their exact pregnancy period using statistical models.

Dr. Monica Guxens, CREAL researcher and first author of the study, notes that "the results of this study are important because it is the first study that included a large sample of children from different European countries in which the air pollution has been measured in a standardized way in all regions and where the cognitive and psychomotor development was prospectively collected."

Researchers evaluated the psychomotor and general cognitive and language development of nearly 9,500 children aged between one and six years. And they found that air pollution during pregnancy were negatively associated with psychomotor development, which decreased 0.68 points per each increase by 10microg/m3 in NO2. Similar trends were observed in most areas. However, no association was found between exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and general cognitive or language development.

Reference: Guxens M, Garcia-Esteban R, Giorgis-Allemand L, Forns J, Badaloni C, Ballester, F, et. al. Air Pollution During Pregnancy and Childhood Cognitive and Psychomotor Development: Six European Birth Cohorts. Epidemiology. 2014 Jul 16. [Epub ahead of print]

Image: Swangerschaft (Wikipedia)