CREAL: Children who attend schools nearby traffic show a lower cognitive development

CREAL: Children who attend schools nearby traffic show a lower cognitive development

News from CREAL

The cognitive development of children attending schools exposed to air pollution because of its proximity to traffic is slowed, according to a new study published in PLOS Medicine led by researchers from CREAL.

Many schools are located in close proximity to the busiest streets, with traffic air pollution peaks when children are at school. The objective of this research, part of the BREATHE project, was to evaluate the relationship between long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollutants at school and cognitive development measurements in primary school children.

It is suspected that air pollution is a developmental neurotoxicant. In previous animal studies had shown that inhalation of diesel exhaust and ultrafine particles results in elevated cytokine expression and oxidative stress in the brain and altered animal behavior.

"We have found that children attending highly contaminated schools had lower growth in cognitive development than children in schools less polluted. In this sense, children who attend schools with high levels of pollution, both in the classroom and on the playground experienced less growth of cognitive functions essential for learning, the 7% against 11%. These results were confirmed using direct measurements of traffic related pollutants at schools. This can have consequences on school performance and behavior”, explains Jordi Sunyer, principal investigator of the study.

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Sunyer J, Esnaola M, Alvarez-Pedrerol M, Forns J, Rivas I, López-Vicente M, et al. (2015) Association between Traffic-Related Air Pollution in Schools and Cognitive Development in Primary School Children: A Prospective Cohort Study. PLoS Med 12(2): e1001792. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001792