Improving air quality in NYC would boost children's future earnings

Reducing air pollution in New York City would result in substantial economic gains for children as a result of increasing their IQs. The study is the first to estimate the costs of IQ loss associated with exposure to air pollution, and is based on prior research on prenatal exposure to air pollutants among low-income children by Frederica Perera, PhD, lead author of the current study, and colleagues at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health at the Mailman School of Public Health.

The researchers made their calculation using a hypothesized modest reduction of .25 nanograms per cubic meter air (ng/m3) of ambient concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH), a family of chemicals created by that is ubiquitous in urban air. By way of comparison, the current estimated annual mean PAH concentration is approximately 1 ng/ m3. The analysis focused on the 63,462 New York City born in 2002 to women on Medicaid, a group sharing the same socio-demographic characteristics as the cohort studied by Dr. Perera and colleagues linking IQ and PAH, and used methods employed in published studies estimating earnings potential related to exposures to lead and mercury. Gains in IQ related to the hypothetical 25% reduction in PAH translated to increased lifetime earnings of $215 million.

The researchers previously reported that children born to nonsmoking mothers exposed to higher levels of airborne PAH during pregnancy had IQs three points lower at age 5 than children whose mothers had lower PAH exposures. The IQ reduction was modest but in the range of that seen with low-level lead.

The researchers say they have likely underestimated the total economic benefit associated with reduction in prenatal PAH exposure because it does not include estimates of economic gains due to broader neurotoxic, respiratory, and carcinogenic effects, all also linked with PAH. While based on children born to mothers on Medicaid in New York City, the authors say, the results likely apply to children more broadly. IQ affects academic performance and earnings.

According to Dr. Perera, "Our analysis suggests that a modest reduction in urban air pollution would provide substantial economic benefits and help children realize their full potential."

Full results are published in the Journal of Public Health Policy.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Air pollution and psychological distress during pregnancy

Oct 07, 2013

Maternal psychological distress combined with exposure to air pollution during pregnancy have an adverse impact on the child's behavioral development, according to researchers at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental ...

Obese children more susceptible to asthma from air pollution

Jan 22, 2014

Obese children exposed to high levels of air pollutants were nearly three times as likely to have asthma, compared with non-obese children and lower levels of pollution exposure, report researchers at Columbia University ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals state of crisis in Canadian foster care system

Oct 24, 2014

A new study of foster care in Canada led by a researcher at Western University reveals a shrinking number of foster care providers are available across the country to care for a growing number of children with increasingly ...

Researchers prove the benefits of persimmons for diet

Oct 24, 2014

Alba Mir and Ana Domingo, researchers from the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Valencia, under the supervision of professors Miguel de la Guardia and Maria Luisa Cervera, from the same department, ...

Hand blenders used for cooking can emit persistent chemicals

Oct 24, 2014

Eight out of twelve tested models of hand blenders are leaking chlorinated paraffins when used according to the suppliers' instructions. This is revealed in a report from Stockholm University where researchers analyzed a ...

User comments