Women who breathe in smog while pregnant are more likely to give birth to children with behavioral problems, a new study says. The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that children exposed to powerful airborne pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) while in the womb were more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and attention problems.
The study builds on previous research finding links between prenatal exposure to pollutants and health problems.
However, this particular study is the first that specifically links behavior problems in school-age children to two types of PAH exposure, which are air concentrations and the levels of pollutants found in mothers' umbilical cord blood, U.S. News & World Report said.
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"What I take away from this is neurodevelopment is really sensitive to stresses of various kinds," Shanna H. Swan, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, told ABC.
The study follows mothers children who live in urban areas. But researchers aren't suggesting that all pregnant women move to the countryside. Instead, they say that governments needs to place stricter regulations on the businesses responsible for the pollution.
"Pregnant women and their families can support local, state and federal legislation promoting improved overall indoor and outdoor air quality," Dr. Maida P. Galvez, associate professor of preventive medicine and pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, told ABC.
Swan added: "This is really a paper about social justice."