Study links exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and neurodevelopment in children

Protection of children from air pollutants needs to be started during their mothers.


Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions that result from impairments. Recently, a Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology study evaluated the association between ambient particulate matter no larger than 2.5 μm in diameter (PM2.5) during the prenatal and postnatal periods and infant neurodevelopmental parameters.

Scientists conducted the study using the Taiwan Birth Cohort Study. It includes 17,683 full-term infants without congenital malformations who were assessed through home interviews at 6 months and 18 months of age.

Using a mix of kriging and land-use regression, the prenatal exposure to PM2.5 of mothers and their children was calculated. Each participant’s home address was used to link them to the exposure. The risk of neurodevelopmental delay in connection to PM2.5 was then assessed using logistic regression.

Each 10 μg/m3 increase in exposure to delicate particulate matter during the second trimester was associated with a 9% higher risk of a delay in gross motor neurodevelopmental milestones after adjustments. Similar levels of risk were seen for delayed fine motor development and personal–social skills. The authors believed fine particulate matter exposure before birth posed stronger effects than exposure after birth.

Corresponding author Yue Leon Guo, MD, MPH, Ph.D., of National Taiwan University Medical School and Hospital said, “Protection of children from air pollutants needs to be started during their mother’s pregnancy.”

Scientists noted, “Exposure to ambient PM2.5 during pregnancy was significantly related to delay in gross motor, fine motor, and personal–social development.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Ping Shih, Tung-liang Chiang, et al. Air pollution during the perinatal period and neurodevelopment in children: A national population study in Taiwan. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology. DOI: 10.1111/dmcn.15430
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