We published new research: Inequalities in Exposure to Ambient Air Neurotoxicants and Markers of Neurodevelopment in Children by Maternal Nativity Status
Araya F, Stingone JA, Claudio L. Inequalities in exposure to ambient air neurotoxicants and disparities in markers of neurodevelopment in children by maternal nativity status. Int J. Environ Res Public Health 2021, 18 (14) 7512 https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18147512
SUMMARY: Exposure to hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) varies greatly amongst populations. Inequities in HAP exposure among groups can lead to disparities in neurodevelopmental outcomes in children. Our study's goal was to see if HAP exposure was influenced by maternal nativity, a demographic characteristic generally disregarded in health disparities research. We also looked at whether unequal HAP exposure levels may affect young children's neurodevelopment.
To do this, we used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), a nationally representative sample of children born in 2001 (n = 4750). Early cognitive development was assessed using Bayley's Short Form–Research Edition (BSF–R), a standardized test often used to assess brain development.
We found that participants at age nine months were exposed to ten possibly neurotoxic HAPs in their homes. Using linear regression models, we found that maternal nativity and HAP exposure had a synergistic effect on neurodevelopment. For instance, 32 percent of children born to foreign-born mothers were exposed to high levels of HAPs, compared to 21 percent of children born to U.S.-born moms.
One example of a particular HAP was the air pollutant isophorone, a measure of industrial pollution. After adjusting for socioeconomic characteristics, both isophorone exposure and maternal nativity status were linked with worse BSF-R mental scores in children. There was no statistically significant interaction between nativity status and isophorone exposure, but the change in mental scores was higher in children of foreign-born mothers than in children of U.S.-born mothers (0.12, vs. 0.03, p = 0.2).
In conclusion, children of foreign-born mothers were more likely than US-born mothers to be exposed to HAPs in the highest levels, showing disparities in pollutant exposure by nativity status within metropolitan populations. Exposures linked to nativity status may harm children's neurodevelopment.
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Dr. Luz Claudio is an environmental health scientist, mother and consultant, originally from Puerto Rico. She is a tenured professor of environmental medicine and public health. Luz recently published her first book: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide. Dr. Claudio has internship programs and resources for young scientists. Opinions expressed in this blog are solely her own and may not reflect her employer's views.