Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Boost your child'd future earnings by improving air quality, says scientist

Reducing air pollution would result in substantial economic gains for children by boosting their IQs says a study from the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health at the Mailman School of Public Health.

The study is the first to estimate the costs of IQ loss associated with exposure to air pollution, and is based on prior research on prenatal exposure to air pollutants among low-income children.

The analysis focused on the 63,462 New York City children born in 2002 to women on Medicaid. They estimated that a 25% reduction in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), a family of chemicals created by burning fossil fuels, would translate to increased lifetime earnings of $215 million for the group.

Researchers had previously reported that children born to nonsmoking mothers exposed to higher levels of airborne PAH during pregnancy had IQs three points lower at age 5 than children whose mothers had lower PAH exposures. The IQ reduction was modest but in the range of that seen with low-level lead.

The researchers say they have likely underestimated the total economic benefit associated with reduction in prenatal PAH exposure because it does not include estimates of economic gains due to broader neurotoxic, respiratory, and carcinogenic effects, all also linked with PAH. While based on children born to mothers on Medicaid in New York City, the authors say, the results likely apply to children more broadly.

"Our analysis suggests that a modest reduction in urban air pollution would provide substantial economic benefits and help children realize their full potential," says Frederica Perera, PhD, lead author.

The study results were published in the Journal of Public Health Policy.

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