Newborns under four months of age are at a particular risk for motor and mental development problems from exposure to airborne environmental pollutants. Airborne particles and nitrogen dioxide can cause serious risks, but are negated for infants who are being.
A look at the effects of airborne pollutants on infant development
A study conducted by researchers in Spain at the University of the Basque Country found that breast-fed babies were not impacted by potentially harmful developmental issues from nitrogen dioxide and pollution particle matter in their first four months of life.
Lead researcher Aitana Lertxundi conducted the study using the framework of INMA (Infancia y Medio Ambiente), a Spanish project to study the effect of environmental pollution on children that is headed by Jesus Ibarluzea of the Department of Health of the Government of the Basque Autonomous Community.
The goal of the study was to determine the health effects on pregnancy from exposure to environmental pollution, as well as the importance of diet on infant neurobehavioral and physical development.
The primary focus was on the effects of exposure to pollution particle matter and nitrogen dioxide atmospheric pollutants on early mental and motor development of infants.
Studying children from prenatal phase up to 15 months
This research is the most recent and significant look into the pollution particle matter effect on motor capacity development in infants from the prenatal stage up to the age of 15 months. Furthermore, it was the most recent in-depth look at nitrogen dioxide effects on mental development from the prenatal stage until age 15 months. Research has been ongoing since it began in 2006.
“In the fetal phase the central nervous system is being formed and lacks sufficient detoxification mechanisms to eliminate the toxins that build up,” explained Lertxundi.
Pollution particle matter measure at four times thinner than a human hair. Because of their size, they also remain suspended in air. They easily penetrate the body and can travel far from the initial site of emission. The neurotoxic particle matter studied were composed of arsenic, manganese, and lead from both traffic and industrial sources.
The participants of the study all reside in the Goierri-Alto and Medio Urola valleys of the Baque Country, which is heavily industrialized and contains a large motorway.
Breast-fed babies did not suffer harmful effects
The study findings did show an inverse relationship existing between the motor development of babies and exposure to pollution particle matter. The research team highlighted that “these indices display an alteration with respect to the average and, even if they are not worrying, they are significant in that they reveal the relationship existing between air quality and motor development.”
Interestingly, the data revealed that babies who had been drinking breast milk for a duration of at least four months did not experience any harmful effects from pollution particle matter or nitrogen dioxide.
—The Alternative Daily