Local traffic air pollution has been linked to slower brain development in children

Rush-hour early in the morning in Barcelona. David Ramos/Getty Images

Higher levels of traffic-related air pollution at schools have been linked to slower cognitive development in children.

A study in the journal PLOS Medicine by Jordi Sunyer and colleagues from the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Spain, looked at children aged 7 to 10 in Barcelona.

The researchers tested working memory, superior working memory, and attentiveness every 3 months over a 12-month period in 2,715 children attending 39 schools.

They found that the increase in cognitive development among children attending highly polluted schools was less than among children attending lowly polluted schools.

Children at lowly polluted schools had an 11.5% increase in working memory over a year but those at the highly polluted schools only had a 7.4% rise.

These results were confirmed using direct measurements of traffic related pollutants at schools.

The findings suggest that the developing brain may be vulnerable to traffic-related air pollution well into middle childhood.

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