Prenatal exposure to air pollution linked to impulsivity, emotional problems in children

Posted on March 18, 2016

Photo: flickr

The new study, led by researchers at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health within Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and New York State Psychiatric Institute, is the first of its kind to examine the effects of early life exposure to a common air pollutant known as PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) on self-regulating behaviors and social competency that incorporates multiple assessment points across childhood.

The evidence that prenatal exposure to PAH leads to long-term effects on self-regulatory capacities during early and middle childhood suggests that PAH exposure may be an important underlying and contributing factor to the genesis of a range of childhood mental health problems. In terms of a potential mechanism, researchers suggest that prenatal exposure to PAH damages neural circuits that direct motor, attentional, and emotional responses. Further deficits in self-regulation may predispose children to becoming engaged in high-risk adolescent behaviors.

"This study indicates that prenatal exposure to air pollution impacts development of self-regulation and as such may underlie the development of many childhood psychopathologies that derive from deficits in self-regulation, such as ADHD, OCD, substance use disorders, and eating disorders," says Margolis, assistant professor of medical psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Category(s):Child and/or Adolescent Issues, Emotional Abuse, Inattention, Impulsivity, & Hyperactivity (ADHD)

Source material from Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry

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