Prenatal Pollution Policy

Pregnant women should try to avoid pollution

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Most pregnant women are quite diligent regarding their physical health. Pregnant women try to get more sleep, eat properly and avoid alcohol and cigarettes. Now there is one more thing to try and avoid: Pollution.

A recent finding from a Columbia University study confirms the result from a previous study done in New York City: when a pregnant woman is exposed to urban pollution, her future child's intellectual capacity may be impaired.

"Pregnant women should try to avoid areas with concentrated pollution."

Frederica Perera, senior author and professor of Environmental Health Sciences and director of the Columbia University's Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH), reported the finding that pollutants can downgrade the intelligence of unborn children.

The study recognized children exposed to high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in utero had a significant reduction in scores on a standardized test of reasoning ability and intelligence at age 5.

The study's participants also had more anxiety, depression and attention problems by the ages of 5 to 7 than did children who had low levels of pollution exposure.

Perera also expressed concern because these PAH pollutants are widespread around the world. 

Susan Edwards, the study's lead author agreed with Perera's concerns and concluded that these results contribute to the growing cumulative body of published evidence linking ambient air pollution levels to adverse health effects in children.

The Study

  • The study included a cohort of 214 children born to healthy, non-smoking Caucasian women in  Poland between 2001 and 2006
  • During pregnancy, the mothers completed a questionnaire, wore small backpack personal air monitors to estimate their babies’ PAH exposure, and provided a blood sample and/or a cord blood sample at the time of delivery
  • The children were followed through the age of 5 when they were tested using the Raven Coloured Progressive Matrices (RCPM) Test of reasoning ability and intelligence
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 12, 2011
Last Updated:
May 3, 2011