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Study links highway proximity, mental delays in children

Study links highway proximity and mental delays in children

Living near a major highway may be associated with developmental delays in children.

Researchers studied 5,825 children living in New York state outside of New York City. Parents periodically filled out a well-validated questionnaire that tracks developmental milestones in children from age 8 months to 3 years. Milestones encompassed physical, verbal and social domains.

The scientists, writing in Environmental Research, calculated the proximity of the children’s addresses to interstate and state highways using data from the New York Department of Transportation, and estimated air pollution exposures using federal government data.

After controlling for maternal age, race, smoking, birth weight and many other factors, they found that compared with children living more than 1,100 yards away from a highway, those living within half that distance were twice as likely to fail in the verbal and nonverbal communication domain. The association was similar for the other developmental domains, but it did not reach statistical significance.

“Our study does not prove cause and effect,” said the lead author, Sandie Ha, an assistant professor of public health at the University of California, Merced. “It doesn’t mean that delayed development is inevitable in a child living near a highway. But it is a good idea to minimize exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and early life.”


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