The air that expecting moms breathe can have lasting effects on their children, and the latest study details how
It’s no secret that polluted air — from cigarette smoke, cars and burning heating oil — can have a negative impact on our health. But there’s even stronger evidence now about how that air pollution can affect even growing babies in the womb.
In a study published in theJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, researchers led by Amy Margolis at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health looked for connections between how much exposure an expectant mother has to levels of a primary air pollutant, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and measurements of children’s behavior and emotional states from age three to 11 years. In previous studies, the group showed that higher levels of maternal PAHs at birth were linked to higher rates of anxiety, depression and attention disorders in children at age six and seven years.
In the current study, which follows the same group of children until age 11, the researchers focused on finding an explanation for the connection between PAHs and behavioral issues. They evaluated the children on a standard test of emotional self regulation that captures aggression, impulsiveness, and intensity of emotions. Other studies have linked this ability to self regulate to social competence and the ability to interact with others, a fundamental aspect of many emotional and social behaviors.