DEC 18, 2017
We already know that invisible elements of our environment can harm us: Lead exposure can lower a child’s IQ, and air pollution kills more than 3 million people a year. Now, a study from the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine suggests that air pollution may be having insidious effects on young people’s brains.
The study, published last week in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, followed 682 children in greater Los Angeles for nine years from the age of nine to 18. It concluded that air pollution may increase delinquent behavior in adolescents.
From 2000 to 2014, researchers measured daily air pollution in Southern California. The pollution was measured as particulate matter or PM2.5, which refers to the maximum diameter, 2.5 microns, of the tiny particles measured. (As a point of comparison, a strand of hair is around 60 microns thick.) To assess delinquency, researchers asked parents to keep a child-behavior checklist, where they recorded behaviors such as lying, stealing, and substance abuse.