This page was updated 3/17/2015
It is increasingly difficult for couples wanting children to prepare a healthy womb for the unborn babies. This should not surprise anyone who has followed, even superficially, the story of an incrementally polluted planet.
A new study by researchers at the Universities of Montana, Carleton, and North Carolina, and the Centro de Ciencias de la Atmósfera, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, heightens concerns over the detrimental impact of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4 allele — the most prevalent genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease — upon cognition, olfaction, and metabolic brain indices in healthy urban children and teens. These findings are published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. The authors argue that sustained exposures to urban air pollution result in cognitive underperformance and metabolic brain changes. The combined effects of residency in a highly polluted city and APOE ε4 could lead to an acceleration of neurodegenerative changes.
Air pollution is a serious public health issue and exposures to concentrations of air pollutants at or above the current standards have been linked to neuroinflammation and neuropathology. In the US alone, 200 million people live in areas where pollutants such as ozone and fine particulate matter exceed the standards. There are significant associations between exposures to particulate matter and increased mortality due to stroke, cardiovascular, and respiratory events.
Women exposed to high levels of fine particulate matter specifically during pregnancy—particularly during the third trimester—may face up to twice the risk of having a child with autism than mothers living in areas with low particulate matter, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). The greater the exposure, the greater the risk, researchers found.
In the late 1980s, I proposed my womb toxicity model of children’s neuro-developmental challenges. Since them I have been adding articles to what I later designated as Toxic Womb Series. In this brief article, I summarize the findings of a November 5, 2014 published from Columbia University, New York, linking maternal environmental exposures to the subsequent development of ADHD in their children.
The Columbia study followed the children of 233 African-American and Dominican women in New York City. They measured a biological marker, the amount of benzo[a]pyrene bound to DNA, for exposure to a family of car-exhaust pollutants called PAHs – in the mothers’ blood at the time of birth. Forty-two percent had detectable levels in their blood. When the children were about 9 years old, parents filled out a questionnaire commonly used to screen for ADHD behavior problems. The children whose mothers had the highest amounts of the PAH at the time of birth were five times more likely to show more behaviors associated with distractibility and inattention than children whose mothers had the lowest levels. They were three times more likely to exhibit more total behaviors (inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity) associated with ADHD.
This, of course, was not the first study linking in-the-womb exposure of the vulnerable brains of the unborn babies and the development of neuro-developmmental challenges in later years after birth.