According to the Washington Post, research released on Wednesday found that young children living in low-income areas are more likely to be exposed to air pollution, which is harmful to their cognitive development.
This study reveals that early childhood exposure to airborne contaminants may have negative effects on a child’s cognitive development, including their ability to read and do arithmetic. The researchers concluded that although there are undoubtedly other concerns that influence school preparedness, exposure to air pollution accounted for a third of the effect.
This study, published in Science Advances, examines the interplay of class concerns on early-childhood cognitive development via the lens of air quality, building on previous research showing that low-income areas are disproportionately affected by pollution compared to more wealthy areas. Geoffrey Wodtke, the study’s lead author and assistant director of the University of Chicago’s Stone Center for Research on Wealth Inequality and Mobility, says the results show that cognitive differences can show up as early as 6 months and are fixed by age 2, long before children start school.
The study’s findings, as described by Wodtke to the Washington Post, indicate that “children born into high-poverty neighborhoods are more likely to be exposed to many neurotoxic air pollutants,” and that these differences “are linked with inequalities in early-childhood development,” in particular reading and math skills as measured at the time of school entry.