Double exposure to stress and air pollution in the first years of life has been associated with attention deficit disorder in young children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, shows new study led by American researchers from Columbia University.

Children most exposed to stress and pollution have a higher risk of developing attention deficit disorder.
This research published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry analyzes the combined effects of stress and air pollution in children. If stress is a factor known to promote mental illness, previous studies have also shown that exposure to air pollution can cause deleterious effects on children's mental health (anxiety, depression).

" The role of environmental neurotoxicants in psychiatric risk is of growing concern, in particular polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), common in air pollution ", underline the researchers. The scientists' objective was to test the potential interactions between prenatal exposure to PAHs and psychosocial / socio-economic stress on psychiatric symptoms in children of school age.

" Air pollutants are common in our environment, especially in cities, and given socio-economic inequalities and environmental injustice, children who grow up in disadvantaged conditions rehabcure(.)org/physiotherapy/physiotherapists/ are more likely to experience both the stress of life and exposure to neurotoxic chemicals , "said lead author Amy Margolis, assistant professor of medical psychology at Columbia University in the United States.

Obsessive behavior and attention deficit disorder
The research is based on a longitudinal cohort study carried out on 723 pregnant African-American and Latin-American women, originating from neighborhoods located in the north of Manhattan and the south of the Bronx (New York). For this survey, the women who participated wore a backpack equipped with equipment to measure exposure to air pollutants in their daily life during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Five years after the birth of their child, the mothers reported all the potential daily stressors (sensitive neighborhood, financial difficulties, violence from a spouse, lack of social support, etc.). The psychiatric symptoms of the children were also followed up, especially at the ages of 5, 7, 9 and 11 years.

Children most exposed to stress and PAH pollution were at higher risk of having intrusive and obsessive thoughts or developing attention deficit disorder, the study shows.

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