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How air pollution and maternal psychological distress affects kid's behavioural development

Washington, Oct 08 : A new study has revealed that psychological distress combined with exposure to air pollution during pregnancy have an adverse impact on the child's behavioural development.


The study by researchers at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health at the Mailman School of Public Health reports that maternal demoralization, a measure of psychological distress capable of affecting a mother's ability to cope with stressful situations, was linked with a number of behavioural problems, including anxiety, depression, attention problems, rule-breaking, externalizing problems, and aggressive behaviour.

The effects of demoralization were greatest among children with higher levels of prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in air pollution.

"This study shows that the combination of physical and psychosocial stressors during fetal development magnifies the effect of each exposure," lead author Frederica Perera, DrPH, PhD, director of the Center said.

The paper is the first to assess the interaction between PAH, combustion-related pollutants measured in air the mother breathed during pregnancy, and maternal demoralization on a variety of behavioural problems in childhood.

PAH are air pollutants generated by combustion sources such as motor vehicles, coal-fired power plants, residential heating and tobacco smoke.

Researchers, led by Dr. Perera and Wieslaw Jedrychowski, MD, PhD, from the University of Krakow, followed 248 mother-child pairs from pregnancy through 9 years of age. Personal air sampling was completed during pregnancy to estimate prenatal PAH exposure.

Behavioural problems were assessed using the Child Behavioural Checklist, a set of questions to which mothers responded about their child's behaviour. Maternal demoralization has been correlated with socioeconomic factors such as material hardship. Levels of maternal demoralization were ascertained by a questionnaire during the second trimester.

The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.

--ANI (Posted on 08-10-2013)

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