Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder found that prenatal exposure to pollution can lead to lower cognition scores when the child becomes a toddler.
According to the research, the toddlers scored lower on measures of cognition, motor coordination and language skills when their mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the middle and final trimesters of pregnancy.
The study focused primarily on Latino women in Southern California, so it’s unclear how the research applies to the general population.
The children were tested at age 2.
The researchers examined the mother’s exposure to pollution from roadside traffic, industry, wildfire smoke and other sources during pregnancy.
The study’s first author, Zach Morgan, said key circuits within the brain form to support sensory, communication and motor systems in mid-to-late pregnancy.
“The brain develops differently at different stages of pregnancy and when you have a disruption at a critical window that can affect the trajectory of that development,” he said in a press release.
Researchers recommend that women do what they can to limit exposure to pollution while pregnant, including investing in a home air filtration system and avoiding secondhand smoke.