ISGlobal: Air pollution induces subclinical structural changes in children’s brains

ISGlobal: Air pollution induces subclinical structural changes in children’s brains

News from ISGlobal

Chronic exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in preadolescent children is associated with subclinical changes in the caudate nucleus of their brains, even when ambient concentrations of PAHs are below the maximum levels established by the European Union. This was the main conclusion of a study published recently in the journal Environment International, which was led by scientists from ISGlobal, a centre supported by the ”la Caixa” Foundation.

PAHs are a group of air pollutants formed during the incomplete combustion of organic material. They are generated as a result of the combustion of fossil and biomass fuels and also found in other media, including cigarette smoke and charcoal-grilled food. In cities such as Barcelona, where the study was carried out, the predominant source of PAHs is vehicular traffic. 

The present study, which formed part of the BREATHE project, measured air pollution levels in 39 schools in Barcelona and acquired cerebral images via magnetic resonance imaging for 242 children (boys and girls) between the ages of 8 and 12 years. The participating children were also assessed for the presence of ADHD symptoms. The aim of the study was to investigate the effects of exposure to PAHs at school on the volume of the children´s basal ganglia, a brain structure consistently reported as reduced in ADHD children, and the possible association with symptoms of ADHD.

More information:
ISGlobal website

Reference work:
Mortamais M, Pujol J, van Drooge BL, et al. Effect of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on basal ganglia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms in primary school children. Environ Int. 2017 May 5;105:12-19.