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Air pollution linked to brain alterations and cognitive impairment in children

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A new study performed in the Netherlands has linked exposure to residential air pollution during fetal life with brain abnormalities that may contribute to impaired cognitive function in school-age children. The study, published in Biological Psychiatry, reports that the air pollution levels related to brain alterations were below those considered to be safe.

“We observed brain development effects in relationship to fine particles levels below the current EU limit,” said lead author Mònica Guxens, M.D., of Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), Spain, a center supported by the “la Caixa” Foundation, and Erasmus University Medical Center, the Netherlands. This finding adds to previous studies that have linked acceptable air pollution levels with other complications including cognitive decline and fetal growth development. “Therefore, we cannot warrant the safety of the current levels of air pollution in our cities,” said Dr. Guxens.

Exposure to fine particles during fetal life was associated with a thinner outer layer of the brain, called the cortex, in several regions. The study showed that these brain abnormalities contribute in part to difficulty with inhibitory control—the ability to regulate self-control over temptations and impulsive behavior—which is related to mental health problems such as addictive behavior and attention-deficit/...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.