A recent study found that having an air cleaner at your home can help reduce the impact of pollution on children’s brain development.
The research findings were published in the journal “Environmental Health Perspectives”.
Simon Fraser University researchers worked with U.S. scientists and Mongolian scientists in order to assess the effects of air filters on intelligence and reduce air pollution exposure during pregnancy.
Researchers note that the randomized controlled trial was the first to examine the effects of air pollution on cognition in children.
The team recruited 540 pregnant women from Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar to take part in the Ulaanbaatar Genetic and Air Pollution Research study (UGAAR). Ulaanbaatar is known for having the most polluted air in the world. It also exceeds guidelines set forth by the World Health Organization.
The women were younger than 18 weeks pregnant and did not smoke. Randomly, they were assigned to one of two groups: the intervention or control group. The intervention group was given one to two HEPA filter HEPA air cleaners. They were encouraged to use the cleaners throughout their pregnancy. After the birth of the child, the air cleaners were taken out of the home.
Later, the researchers measured the children’s intelligence quotient (FSIQ), at four years of old using the Weschler Preschool Scale of Intelligence.
The average FSIQ of children born to mothers who used air cleaners during pregnancy was 2.8 points higher than that of those who did not.
Ryan Allen, a professor of environmental health at SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences, stated that these results were consistent with previous research and strongly suggested that air pollution is a threat to brain development. The good news is that there were clear benefits to reducing exposure.
The average verbal comprehension index score of children in the intervention group was significantly higher than that of their peers, consistent with previous observational studies. Research suggests that children’s verbal skills might be more sensitive to exposure to air pollution.
Over 90% of the world’s population inhales air with particulate matter levels higher than the WHO guidelines. Researchers believe that air pollution could have a significant impact on brain development at the population level, even if individual effects are small.
The study results show that children could benefit from a reduction in air pollution exposure during pregnancy.
Allen adds that “air pollution is everywhere and it is preventing children reaching their full potential.” While air cleaners can provide some protection, ultimately it is the only way to protect all children.