Air Pollution Can Harm Babies While In Vitro

Air pollution can not only have harmful effects on a mom, but it could cause issues for their unborn child and holds a key to problems with the child’s development, according to evidence found by researchers at the University of Washington.

What to know:

  • Air pollution should be considered a preventable risk factor for healthy child neurodevelopment because both prenatal and postnatal exposure can influence childhood behavioral problems and even their IQ.

  • Air pollutants can invade deep into the lungs, trigger oxidative stress, and induce systemic inflammation in pregnant women, which affects their unborn child.

  • Children whose mothers experienced higher nitrogen dioxide exposure during pregnancy, particularly in the first and second trimester, were more likely to have behavioral problems, with girls being affected more than boys.

  • Exposure to fine particulate matter in the second trimester appears to have an adverse effect on IQ, with boys being affected more than girls.

  • Once the child is born, the first few years are critical for ongoing brain development, so inhaled pollutants that circulate deep in the lung and enter the child’s central nervous system can cause damage in areas that are relevant to behavioral and cognitive function.

This is a summary of the article “Associations of Pre- and Postnatal Air Pollution Exposures With Child Behavioral Problems and Cognitive Performance: A U.S. Multi-Cohort Study” published by Environmental Health Perspectives on June 23, 2022. The full article can be found on

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