A new study by researchers at Columbia University’s School of Public Health has found that the effects of city’s polluted air are especially bad for children from low-income neighborhoods. The study, published in Neurotoxicology and Teratology, monitored 276 New York City mothers and their children over a 7-year period, starting from when the mothers were pregnant. Researchers studied the mothers and babies for signs of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, pollutants from burning oil and gas that have been linked to a variety of developmental disorders.

According to the New York Post:

The kids who were exposed to the most pollutants and came from the poorest families scored 6.6 points lower on the overall IQ test than others in the group.

The average score on an IQ test is 100.

In addition, the kids scored 8 points lower for “working memory,” which is what people use to plan and carry out behavior, and 5.7 points lower for “perceptual reasoning,” which allows people
to visualize solutions to non-verbal problems.

“Socioeconomic disadvantage can increase the adverse effects of toxic physical ‘stressors’ like air pollutants,” the study notes.

“The findings support policy interventions to reduce air pollution exposure in urban areas as well as programs to screen women early in pregnancy to identify those in need of psychological or material support,” said Frederica Perera, director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health.

(Photo: David Salafia)