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Prenatal Exposure to Smog Tied to Child Behavior Problems

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure linked to anxiety, depression, and attention problems

FRIDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- Prenatal exposure to high levels of airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) is associated with adverse outcomes on child behavior, according to research published online March 22 in Environmental Health Perspectives.

In an effort to determine whether prenatal exposure to PAH is related to behavioral issues in children, Frederica P. Perera, Dr.P.H., of Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues followed a group of 253 children -- from in utero to 6 to 7 years of age -- who were born to nonsmoking African-American and Dominican women living in New York City. Exposure to PAH was estimated using two measures: personal air monitoring of mothers during pregnancy and measurement of DNA adducts specific to a representative PAH in both maternal and cord blood.

The researchers identified a positive association between high PAH exposure, characterized by either method, and children's symptoms of anxiety/depression and attention problems, assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist (P ≤ 0.05).

"This study provides evidence that prenatal exposure to environmental PAH at levels encountered in the air of New York City may influence child behavior. The results suggest an adverse impact of prenatal PAH exposure on child behavior that could impact cognitive development and ability to learn," the authors write.

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