In 2015, Prof. Sunner and colleagues published a study that showed that higher pollution levels were associated with a 5% reduction in working memory tests in children aged seven to ten years. Air pollution affects brain development.
“This is the same change that was observed a few years ago between children with high blood lead levels and children with lower blood levels,” Professor Sunner said.
When it was discovered that lead contamination from gasoline caused significant damage, lead-free gasoline was introduced in the 1970s. At the individual level, a reduction of the 5 percent test will not be enough to have a clear impact, but at the population level, there may be significant economic costs, said Prof. Sunner. He added that 90% of brain development occurs at the age of four years. Therefore, he is now following his latest research to understand the effects of air pollution at the earliest stages of life.
He led the AIR-NB study to monitor exposure to air pollution before the baby was born. The research team recruited 1,200 pregnant women in Barcelona to investigate and measure pollution in their homes.
By considering other possible factors such as physical activity, noise pollution and maternal stress hormones, they will try to identify the differences between children during their development. The researchers will imagine the brain in the third trimester of pregnancy and one month after birth with an MRI scan.
Another problem is that air pollution can increase the risk of developing autism spectrum disorders. Several studies in the United States show a link with air pollution, but the results of a large European project found no link. However, this study gathered results from a series of studies using different methods that might have influenced the results.
Dr. Juana Maria Delgado-Saborit, a visiting researcher at ISGlobal, hopes to investigate this issue using data from 18,000 children in the UK. All of these children are part of the Millennium Research Cohort and have been regularly monitored and tested for the past two decades.
“I think that with this large group, I might be able to find out if there are real problems in the US and Europe, or whether Americans see differences because of the composition of pollution,” he said.
For a project called COGNAC, Dr. Delgado-Saborit health information is collected for children under 14 years of age to help diagnose disorders or characteristics of the autism spectrum. By overlapping this information with pollution maps during pregnancy and early pregnancy, he hopes to identify possible correlations.
Data analysis is ongoing, but preliminary results show a connection with ozone levels in the air. Ozone is an irritant formed by reaction with nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons, public road pollutants.
Both are Dr. Delgado-Saborit and Prof. Sunner drew equations with the change in perspective of the damage caused by air pollution after thousands of deaths caused by Great Smog in London in 1952. “We learned from the industrial revolution that we made our environment dirty, but we had no signs (of danger). “When we started to measure change, we saw that something was happening, especially when we had a London smoke episode.) That air affects our health,” Dr. Delgado Saborite
“After clean air takes effect, the air is cleaned. In the 1980s, it was assumed that pollution levels were not harmful to health,” Professor Sunner said.
Just like in the 1950s, there is broad understanding today that polluted air is not safe, but researchers still don’t know the impact. Although there is agreement that children should not be exposed to high levels of air pollution in schools, the results of their research could have far-reaching consequences: “If we find that pregnancy and early life are more numerous, I think this will force people to open new avenues for living in a city that also protects children’s health. “”
However, compared to using soy powder, this can be a big challenge.