Prenatal exposure to pollution, like environmental toxic or carcinogenic air pollutants, and socioeconomic disadvantage were linked to an increased possibility of developing ADHD symptoms and psychosocial stress in children aged nine, says a recent study, published in the journal Environmental Research. The study by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) examined nonsmoking pregnant women of African and Dominican descent living in New York City. They followed the participants and their children for nine years to gather data on prenatal exposure to pollution and the prevalence of ADHD to establish a link between the two.
For determining prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), the clinicians measured PAH-DNA adducts in the blood of pregnant subjects at the time of delivery. The levels were divided into two categories to distinguish between high and low exposure rates. PAH are toxic pollutants in the air produced by the process of combustion, for example, the fumes from a car exhaust. On being exposed to such toxins, the blood of the pregnant woman absorbs and transfers them to the fetus that can damage the DNA of the developing brain.
The subjects also reported their experiences with poverty during their pregnancy and the follow-up period. Further, the scientists used the Conners Parent Rating Scale to assess the presence of ADHD symptoms in children. The assessment tool used scales from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) to determine the symptoms of ADHD.
According to the findings, the kids with high prenatal exposure to pollutants had more ADHD symptoms compared to subjects with low prenatal exposure. Also, children from mothers with persistent economically weaker conditions were more likely to develop ADHD symptoms. Therefore, it was concluded that socioeconomic stress and pollution heightened the chances of developing ADHD in a child’s life later. Lead author Frederica Perera said that this study raised concerns and warning signals about conceiving and raising children in poor and polluted areas.
Urgent need to reduce effects of pollution and poverty
A pregnant woman is required to take a healthy and balanced diet as the antioxidants in vegetables and fruits protect the body from the harmful effects of pollution. However, when the family is at a disadvantage socioeconomically, it might be hard for the women to get the right nutrition. The pressure of dealing with day-to-day problems also adds to the overall stress levels, harming the development of the fetus. Such stressors add to the risk of developing ADHD in children in later years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 6.1 million children aged between two and 17 years (9.4 percent) were identified with symptoms of ADHD in 2016.
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