Kids Near the Fastlane May Act Fast

Hyperactivity scores higher in kids exposed to traffic pollution

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Pollution can be a double negative. It's not so good for the lungs and, at the same time, it can make concentrating difficult for kids.

Children who were exposed more often to air pollution at a young age were more likely to have higher hyperactivity scores by age 7, a recently published study found.

This raises concern that early exposure to air pollution may be in some way related to the potential development of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

The link was only tied to children whose mothers who had more than a high school education, according to researchers.

"Learn about your local air quality."

Individuals with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have difficulty being attentive listeners. Patients can also be overactive and impulsive.

Researchers led by Nicholas Newman, MD, from the Division of General and Community Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, looked at how kids' exposure to traffic-related air pollution early in life impacted their neurological and behavioral outcomes at age 7.

The researchers looked specifically at elemental carbon given off in traffic. Using the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution birth cohort, the researchers gathered the birth records of about 600 children and the amount of carbon they were exposed to.

A little more than half the children were boys and about a fifth were African American. The cohort was surveyed on their behavior using a scoring system.

Each of the children enrolled in the cohort was required to have at least one parent with an allergy and lived at birth less than 400 meters or more than 1,500 meters from a major highway.

The researchers took 27 air samples during children's first year of life and continued to follow them through age 7. Participants' parental information including their income and education levels was also obtained.

Exposure to the highest levels of pollution during children's first year of life was significantly linked with hyperactivity scores in the "at risk" range by age 7, the researchers found.

Children whose mothers had a higher education were more than two times as likely to be exposed to pollution and have hyperactivity symptoms.

"Examination of age at exposure as well as gene environment interactions might also inform understanding of the pathophysiology of traffic exposure and behavior," the researchers wrote in their report.

The authors noted that kids' exposure to pollution changed as their residences changed and they did not have much data on the behavioral health history of the participants.

The authors also selected participants who were likely to have allergies. However, the percentage of children who met criteria for hyperactivity in their study was similar to the percentage of kids who have ADHD across the US.

Greater exposure to air pollution significantly increased parts of the body responsible for inflammation, which researchers said could be why hyperactive behaviors are linked to increased exposure to pollution.

The study, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, was published online May 21 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 23, 2013
Last Updated:
August 22, 2013