Black and white girl

The one-two punch of maternal poverty and prenatal exposure to air pollution can have a negative effect on a child's IQ, researchers at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) at the Mailman School of Public Health have found.

A new study, published in Neurotoxicology and Teratology, focused on 276 mother-child pairs living in urban areas from pregnancy to early childhood. It found kids who were born to moms who experienced both economic hardship during pregnancy and exposure to air pollution (specifically, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) had lower IQ scores at the age of 5 than children who were exposed to fewer pollutants in utero and born to more economically secure mothers.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in the environment may come from such sources as cars and trucks, oil, and smoke emissions.

"The findings add to other evidence that socioeconomic disadvantage can increase the adverse effects of toxic physical "stressors" like air pollutants," the study concluded. Furthermore, the association between the PAH exposure, which was found in cord blood, and the lowered IQ was "significant only among the group of children whose mothers reported high material hardship. These results indicate the need for a multifaceted approach to prevention."

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She's a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

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