Babies Exposed to High Air Pollution Have Structural Changes to Their Brain at Age 12

Significant early childhood exposure to traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) is associated with structural changes in the brain at the age of 12.

Nextbigfuture believes this research is saying that there is some degree of long term brain damage or brain development abnormalities caused by high levels of air pollution.

Higher levels of TRAP exposure at birth had reductions at age 12 in gray matter volume and cortical thickness as compared to children with lower levels of exposure.

Previous studies of TRAP suggest that it contributes to neurodegenerative diseases and neurodevelopmental disorders. This work supports that TRAP changes brain structure early in life.

35 thoughts on “Babies Exposed to High Air Pollution Have Structural Changes to Their Brain at Age 12”

  1. Yes, it is the lead paint I was referring to regarding home age. There should be minimal lead in the air at this point…unless you live near a busy small airport or very close to a firing range (or if some nearby fool makes his own bullets/lead sinkers or solders regularly using leaded solder). Those old prop planes still use leaded avgas. Lead free formulations were made and tested, and were ready to go. But the backward Trump administration stopped it.
    The scientists should just test everyone involved for lead…the parents and the children. Lead is not coming from the air pollution, so correcting for lead makes sense. Then you don’t have to correct for home age, lead in the soil, and a bunch of other stuff.
    And you have to look at the parent brain scans, as we know brain features are heritable to some degree. They you don’t have to correct for parental IQ, education, earning level, and a dozen other things you can’t adequately correct for anyway.

  2. Fatness is ALSO correlated with having a lot of food and less exercise.
    I know this is disputed in some particularly wacko corners of the internet but but come on…

    Besides, we aren’t saying that men can’t have sex or see their toes in 2020, just that the measured testosterone is lower, and BMI higher, than in 1960.

    We have three trends.
    .1. Food became cheaper and more available, such that by about 1950s you could eat huge amounts even on a minimum wage. Cheap carbohydrates and starch mostly, but big platefulls.
    .2. Lifestyles involved less and less mandatory exercise. Such that by about the 1970s very few people had to waddle further than from the car park to the donut store if they didn’t want to.
    .3. Obesity shot up, but didn’t really shoot up until the late 1980s, long after the two obvious “causes”

    Therefore, something else must have changed too.

  3. So before tobacco was introduced men had very low testosterone and were fat then? It is a wonder they were able to reproduce at all. I guess if they were not board enough to have sex with their sex starved wives, the human race would have died out thousands of years ago.

  4. If you research for explanations for these issues and many other, they are not what you have given, but have to do eventually mostly with our inability to incorporate technological advances as a background for small community close to earth living… Although longer life expectancy is a factor.

  5. Impotency caused by rubbish blood circulation, not caused by testosterone deficiency.

    You’d get the convenient situation of wanting lots of sex, and not being able. Which is probably why those blue pills sold so well.

    Mmmm… does this mean that certain drug companies now have a motivation to encourage smoking?

  6. Explaining =/= explaining away.

    The issues are still there, even if there is an explanation.

    Or did you really mean that these things are all caused by TV?

  7. My cynical theory is that if you have even slightly lower desire to live, under bad conditions you find yourself taking more risks and either
    ..1 Dying, but not as a recorded “suicide”
    ..2 Winning some risky venture and not having a bad life any more

  8. > correlate with a good life

    Maybe a matter of contrast and conditioning. If everything is rosy, the slightest mishap seems like the end of the world, and you lack the experience to deal with it.

  9. Don’t agree, see my comment to Mindbreaker. see this critical limitation from their study. In my view, as a frequent reviewer of scientific papers, this paper has a lot of confirmation bias in it, though the topic is worth pursuing.

    “However, the structural evaluation of a single timepoint in an ongoing developmental process is a limitation. In the future, a longitudinal analysis with a second MRI evaluation is planned for this cohort as this is more sensitive to individual brain developmental patterns due to the exclusion of the influence of large interindividual variations.”

  10. I agree. They pre-selected their subjects and no control, and they linked the MRI changes to fairly flimsy cause-effect psychology studies (e.g., the schizophrenia link, complete BS statistically). To me, the study shows there were MRI changes, and they tried to force a link to pollution. This is confirmation bias. Maybe they are on to something, but maybe they aren’t. Not good science.

  11. Another study that gets closer, but not all the way, to the underlying cause. Nose-to-brain COULD get ultra-fine-particulate-matter to the CNS, as it can via the lungs. BUT….the jury is still out on what actually happens to the brain and other confounding variables (particularly genetic).

    It’s obvious that pollution is not good for you, but the degree of how bad it is and the concentration level of pollution and what the pollution actually is (e.g., SO molecules) and other factors etc etc is still not well known. Given the widespread pollution in major Chinese and Indian cities for decades you would have expected a large number of neuro-disorders. Where is it? Respiratory disorders – yes, that is known and proved. But the brain and CNS?

    By the by, this study didn’t do a control, and wasn’t double blind. A big no-no. Their subjects were pre-selected from high PM areas. They got what they were looking for…..

  12. My italicised personal theory section also covered obesity.

    Autism is strongly correlated with the age of the parents. Which is increasing. And there is also probably a much greater amount of diagnosis these days, in part because now you get some support more than “Your kid’s a ‘tard, try for another. Next.”

    Suicide I can’t say much about. Except that it seems to correlate with a good life. Bizarrely.

  13. Home age DOES contribute to reduction of grey matter in the brain, because there used to be lead used in paint. Indeed I think it was required by government regulation at some point, for some applications. Anyway, old houses, old cracking, peeling, lead paint.

    Furthermore, it is known that mere low income contributes to poorer health outcomes in dozens of different ways, not all of which are understood. Generally speaking, all bad stuff correlates.

  14. Well there is that moderately well documented collapse in male testosterone levels.

    (Personal theory with little evidence: The culprit is the decrease in smoking. Nicotine is known to boost testosterone. Add in that nicotine is an appetite suppressant and metabolism booster, while at the same time testosterone makes you leaner and there’s a major cause of your obesity epidemic too. Now excess body fat ALSO decreases testosterone so we have a positive feedback loop.)

  15. Surely a better match would be Matt Murdock (Dare Devil). He grew up in a lower class area of a big city and was exposed to toxic pollutants as a child, resulting in damage… that also gave him special abilities.

  16. You touched on one of the ways to study causal mechanisms in humans: natural experiments. A regular observational study cannot rule out unknown factors even if the known ones are controlled for. Controlling for everything still leaves open the likely possibility of reverse causation.

  17. No shock here. Just another report in the line of many telling us air pollution from certain manmade activities are unhealthy. Just fix the problem.

  18. I think the study was OK.

    You have to rule out likely competing variables. Home age and home cost are not likely to contribute to reduction of grey matter in the brain. We already know that exposure to lead can lead to brain damage, so guessing that levels of pollution affects brain development is only a minor leap of faith.

    The researchers monitored the air quality at 27 sites in Cincinnati to estimate the level of air pollution that each kid was exposed to. Sure, a kid *could* have his home and school in one are, but still spend most of his/her time somewhere else, but this would *lower* the apparent correlation.

    Furthermore, all 146 kids were monotored at the ages of 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 12 years, so we can pretty much rule out measurement “noise”.

    Overall, not a bad study.

  19. Like the kid from Brightburn! … Oh… oh wait, no, not like that…

    Also, him being an alien throws water on my already bad joke lol.

    I suppose the best that one could hope for from pollution causing preferred mutations is that of it turned someone into a savant of some kind. But, then the other aspects of their life would be not so good.

  20. This is disappointing, because I’d hoped the pollution would cause abnormalities that gave the children superhuman strength and senses like animals’. That the kids are just brain-damaged, I find sorely disappointing.

  21. While I would certainly not rule this out, the methodology leaves lot to be desired. Did they check everyone for heavy metals? And did they control for apartment rent/home costs? Did they control for home age? If the air is worse, you would think that would affect the likelihood that people will want to live there. And that means that those who do live in the worst areas probably viewed it as a trade-off that they felt they had to make to have the space they needed, and such.
    They need to test this again in a city that was mostly built after leaded fuel was banned. And they need to measure brain features relative to their parents’ brain features.

  22. Observational studies cannot establish causation. This is a common and, in the aggregate, extremely costly error. In this particular case it’s like looking at the residents of the Cincinnati area and saying air pollution causes dark hair.

  23. So Children with high exposure to screens and who knows what else. There are many indicators that humanity is in decline due to improper use of technology.

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