Big Apple kids exposed to high levels of airborne filth and economic hardship have lower IQs that will haunt them into adulthood, according to an exhaustive, first-of-its-kind study by Columbia University.
“The findings are a concern because, as has been shown with lead [poisoning], even a modest decrease in IQ can impact lifetime earnings,” warns the report published in the medical journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology.
Researchers reached the alarming conclusion by tracking the development of 276 minority children from Harlem, Washington Heights and the South Bronx for seven years — starting while their moms were pregnant.
The kids who were exposed to the most pollutants and came from the poorest families scored 6.6 points lower on the overall IQ test than others in the group.
The average score on an IQ test is 100.
In addition, the kids scored 8 points lower for “working memory,” which is what people use to plan and carry out behavior, and 5.7 points lower for “perceptual reasoning,” which allows people
to visualize solutions to non-verbal problems.
Following their births, researchers examined blood from each baby’s umbilical cord for biological markers that reveal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [PAH], toxic chemicals created by the burning of gas, diesel, heating oil and other products.
The moms also carried air monitors in backpacks during their third trimesters, and were later interviewed repeatedly about their ability to adequately feed, clothe and house their kids. The groundbreaking study stemmed from ongoing research that has shown how prenatal exposure to PAH is tied to a host of childhood ills, including developmental delays, reduced verbal skills and symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The latest study concluded that the effects of PAH were exacerbated by poverty, calling it the latest evidence of how “socioeconomic disadvantage can increase the adverse effects of toxic physical ‘stressors’ like air pollutants.”
“This report adds to the growing literature on the vulnerability of the developing fetus and young child to the toxic effects of environmental pollutants,” the study says.
Meanwhile, a related study of 40 of the children involved in the research showed that air pollution had damaged the left sides of their brains, impairing their ability to think quickly and possibly causing conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).