Baby Development Problems and Childhood Disorders May Be Caused by Air Pollution

BY ON August 3, 2011

Nancy Silverman-KonigsbergGuest blogger Nancy Silverman-Konigsberg is a certified occupational therapist with more than 16 years experience providing therapy for children and infants. This post originally appeared on her blog, Milestone Mom.

Moms Clean Air Force (MCAF) is devoted to cleaning up the air our children and unborn babies breathe. While I don’t usually use my blog to tout political causes, I am going to make an exception for this particular issue. Clean air should be a priority if we want our children to have a healthy future.

If you knew that pollutants in the air had a direct link topremature deaths, asthma, decreased lung function, autism, ADHD and developmental delays, would you do something about it? If you had the opportunity to take measures which would improve the air quality for your unborn child or newborn infant, would you grab hold of that opportunity? Or are you the kind of person who thinks something should be done, but would rather leave the solution to others who are willing to get involved?

I am a pediatric occupational therapist with more than 16 years of clinical experience. I also have a 6 year old with ADHD combined type. In the years since I started working, there has been a marked increase in children diagnosed with asthma, autism, cerebral palsy, respiratory problems, ADHD and more. Recently I attended a panel discussion by some of the worlds’ leading experts on ADHD. They unanimously agreed that although it might seem like ADHD is currently over-diagnosed, in actuality it is probably under-diagnosed.

No one really understands the impact of these diagnoses until they have a child who has a developmental problem or who must be on life –saving medication their whole life. I understand not only because I have a son who has ADHD, but also because I treated so many of these children. Some of these problems are insidious. Children with autism and ADHD have behavior problems, socialization issues, sensory issues and cognitive issues. The child may have the diagnosis, but everyone is affected. Therapy and medical care is time-consuming, expensive and emotionally draining.

Think about this for a minute. During pregnancy, a developing fetus receives nutrients and oxygen via the mother. Everyone knows that smoking, drinking and taking drugs can cause birth defects. Pollutants can reach a developing fetus in much the same way. Early in the pregnancy, a developing fetus is very vulnerable. Life starts as a few cells, and becomes a neural plate and then expands to become the head and brain, trunk and spinal cord. It is vitally important to protect the young fetus at this time. An incident which damages the neural plate can end up as a problem with the brain, or limbs, or nervous system, etc.

Research indicates that there is a higher incidence of premature and low birth weight babies in urban areas. Pollution in urban areas is generally much greater than in suburbs and rural areas. More traffic and more industry create more air pollution. There is also a greater concentration of lower socio-economic women in cities. Drugs, smoking and lack of good health care contribute to the problem.

In itself, this is serious. But it is also important to know that babies who are born prematurely have incomplete development. Once out of the womb, they are stimulated by lights, sounds and sensations in the NICU that their nervous systems are ill-equipped to deal with. Almost all the preemies I ever treated had sensory issues. Most were ADHD. All of them had developmental delays.

Your concern and worry can’t stop even if you have a healthy, full-term infant. As soon as the baby leaves the hospital, they are breathing polluted air. Imagine the effect those toxins can have on an infant and will continue to have as the child develops.

When I wanted to find out if air pollution had a relationship to autism spectrum, asthma, ADHD and more, I did an internet search. I found article after article indicating at least a causal relationship. These articles were from the National Institute of Health, Web MD, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and more.

Personally, I don’t need more information than this to want to get involved. I have treated enough babies with developmental disorders and I have a son who is ADHD. I know that more and more children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder than ever before. And I know that air pollution is unhealthy and may be at least partially responsible for these issues. What can be more compelling than that? If every mom wants the best for her unborn child or developing child, then clean air should be part of that goal. Jump on the MCAF bandwagon and demand clean air for the future of our children.

TOPICS: Pollution