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Traffic Pollution May Slow Children’s Progress

March 5, 2015
Public Health

A new study published in the journal PLOS Medicine has linked exposure to road traffic pollution to lower cognitive development in primary school children.

Scientists from the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, carried out a yearlong study at 39 Spanish schools involving 2,715 children between 7 and 10 years, assessing their memory and attentiveness.

Results showed that pupils from schools in areas where air quality was poor made less progress over 12 months than pupils from other regions. Pupils at schools with clean air showed an average improvement in working memory of 11.5 per cent over the year compared to 7.4% for those from polluted areas.

The report, which took into account other socioeconomic factors such as parental education and whether parents smoked at home, concluded that “the findings suggest that the developing brain may be vulnerable to traffic-related air pollution well into middle childhood, a conclusion that has implications for the design of air pollution regulations and for the location of new schools.”

Earlier this week, the government decided not to implement the recommendations of the Environmental Audit Committee, which had asked for a ban on building new schools in or near pollution hotspots. Ministers now face a court challenge from environmental organisation Client Earth over its failure to meet EU air pollution limits. The case is due to be heard in the Supreme Court on April 16th.

You can view a copy of the Spanish Study HERE