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Air Pollution Linked to Lower GPAs in Children

First Posted: Aug 28, 2015 08:33 AM EDT
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Could air pollution lead to low GPAs? Scientists have found that fourth and fifth graders who are exposed to toxic air pollutants at home are more likely to have lower GPAs.

In this latest study, the researchers used the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) National Air Toxics Assessment to estimate children's exposure to toxic pollutants, such as diesel exhaust, around the location of their homes.

The researchers found that children who were exposed to high levels of motor vehicle emissions from cars, trucks and buses on roads and highways had significantly lower GPAs, even when accounting for other factors known to influence school performance.

"There are two pathways that can help us to explain this association," said Sara E. Grineski, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Some evidence suggests that this association might exist because of illnesses, such as respiratory infections or asthma. Air pollution makes children sick, which leads to absenteeism and poor performance in school. The other hypothesis is that chronic exposure to air toxics can negatively affect children's neurological and brain development."

This isn't a unique phenomenon, either. A lot of studies have studied levels of air pollution at schools instead of children's homes, and have found that higher levels of pollution mean that the children have lower standardized test scores.

The findings reveal that when it comes to the health of children, considering air pollution is important. By better understanding how pollution affects children, steps can be taken to lower air pollution in areas where children are present, such as in schools and homes.

The findings are published in the journal Population and Environment.

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