Exposure to air pollution before and after birth may affect fundamental cognitive abilities

Exposure to air pollution before and after birth may affect fundamental cognitive abilities

News from ISGlobal

A growing body of research suggests that exposure to air pollution in the earliest stages of life is associated with negative effects on cognitive abilities. A new study led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), has provided new data: exposure to particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 μm (PM2.5) during pregnancy and the first years of life is associated with a reduction in fundamental cognitive abilities, such as working memory and executive attention.

The study, carried out as part of the BREATHE project, has been published in Environmental Health Perspectives. The objective was to build on the knowledge generated by earlier studies carried out by the same team, which found lower levels of cognitive development in children attending schools with higher levels of traffic-related air pollution.

The study found that greater PM2.5 exposure from pregnancy until age 7 years was associated with lower working memory scores on tests administered between the ages of 7 and 10 years. The results suggest that exposure to fine particulate matter throughout the study period had a cumulative effect, although the associations were stronger when the most recent years of exposure were taken into account. 

Sex-stratified analysis showed that the relationship between PM2.5 exposure and diminished working memory was found only in boys. The study also found that higher exposure to particulate matter was associated with a reduction in executive attention in both boys and girls. 



Ioar Rivas, Xavier Basagaña  Marta Cirach, Mónica López-Vicente  Elisabet Suades-González, Raquel Garcia-Esteban, Mar Álvarez-Pedrerol, Payam Dadvand and Jordi Sunyer. Association between Early Life Exposure to Air Pollution and Working Memory and Attention. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2019 May;127(5):57002. doi: 10.1289/EHP3169


More information:
ISGlobal website