Exposure to air pollution on the way to school can have damaging effects on children’s cognitive development and reduce their working memory, a study has found.
The study published in the journal Environmental Pollution, led by researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) in Spain, assessed the impact of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and black carbon during the walking commute to and from school.
The findings of an earlier study had shown that 20% of a child’s daily dose of black carbon — a pollutant directly related to traffic — is inhaled during urban commutes. “The results of studies have shown that these short exposures to very high concentrations of pollutants can have a disproportionately high impact on health,” said Mar Alvarez-Pedrerol, researcher at ISGlobal.
The study was carried out in Barcelona and enrolled over 1,200 children aged from seven to 10, from 39 schools, all of whom walked to school.
Statistical analysis of the findings showed that exposure to PM2.5 and black carbon was associated with a reduction in the growth of working memory — an interquartile range increase in PM 2.5 and black carbon levels was associated with a decline of 4.6% and 3.9%, respectively, in expected annual growth of working memory