Children exposed to air pollution suffer reduced thinking skills

E&T – Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Exposure to air pollution in childhood is linked to a decline in thinking skills in later life, Edinburgh University researchers have said.

A greater exposure to air pollution at the very start of life was associated with a detrimental effect on people’s cognitive skills up to 60 years later, the research found.

The team tested the general intelligence of more than 500 people aged approximately 70 years using a test they had all completed at the age of 11 years. The participants then repeated the same test at the ages of 76 and 79 years.

A record of where each person had lived throughout their life was used to estimate the level of air pollution they had experienced in their early years.

The team used statistical models to analyse the relationship between a person’s exposure to air pollution and their thinking skills in later life. They also considered lifestyle factors, such as socio-economic status and smoking.

Findings showed exposure to air pollution in childhood had a small but detectable association, with worse cognitive change between the ages of 11 and 70 years.

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