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Can Air Pollution Decrease Your Child’s IQ?


IQ is an imperfect predictor of a variety of outcomes, including academic success and lifetime earning potential. Researchers continue to detect a link between air quality and child IQ test results.

It’s debatable if IQ test scores are reliable predictors of future academic and financial success. Indeed, the competency of IQ tests varies, and they do not always precisely reflect an individual’s intelligence. Many specialists, however, consider it to be a useful measurement tool.

Breathing polluted air has been shown to impair memory and reasoning, lower academic achievement, and even lower intelligence. Sure, breathing clean air helps prevent a child’s IQ from dropping by avoiding the negative impacts of air pollution — but can breathing clean air truly enhance your child’s IQ?

Living in a polluted environment as a preteen or adolescent might have long-term negative consequences on a person’s ability to understand and solve problems.

In one study, researchers discovered that every increase of 2.5 micrograms per meter cubed (g/m3) of fine-particle pollution (PM2.5) in the vicinity of the children’s residences resulted in a one-point decline in their performance IQ score. Note that performance IQ assesses reasoning and problem-solving ability, as opposed to verbal IQ, which assesses acquired knowledge, verbal reasoning, and verbal material attention.

Child IQ and prenatal exposure to air pollution

Neurotoxicants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) generated by the combustion of fossil fuels and other organic material are especially dangerous to the growing fetus and child.

Common air pollutants inhaled by pregnant women may be lowering the intelligence of their children, according to two long-term studies. More than 400 women participated in the studies, which took place in two cities: New York City and Krakow, Poland (both of which are well-known for being extremely polluted). Researchers discovered that 5-year-olds whose mothers were exposed to PAHs above average levels scored four points lower on IQ tests than children whose mothers were exposed to PAHs below average levels.

Air quality and cognitive development

Poor Indoor Air Quality has also been linked to a reduction in pupils’ ability to do specific mental tasks involving focus, math, and memory, according to studies.

In addition, there is growing evidence that poor IAQ can lead to verbal, perceptual, motor, and behavioral difficulties in children. Hearing loss, impatience, and developmental delays are all possible side effects.

What can you do about it ?

Each of us has a critical role to play in cleaning the air we breathe both indoors and out.

We can contribute to reducing pollution sources, improving indoor air quality, and providing air filtration for schools and other interior areas as needed. Here are a few examples of constructive actions we can all do to help clean the air and protect ourselves from pollution:

  1. Avoid unnecessary exposure at home: Use a high-performance air cleaner, such as HealthMate or HealthMate Plus that has an active carbon and zeolite filter along with the true grade HEPA, to avoid unwanted exposure.
  2. Make choices that don’t contribute to air pollution: Conserving energy, recycling, driving less, or using low-polluting vehicles are all options that can help everyone to breathe cleaner air.
  3. Get involved at school: Many schools haven’t had a facility renovation in decades. Participate in your school’s parent-teacher association (PTA) or school board to help improve air quality. Take initiative to improve ventilation systems and get the right protection can make a huge difference. Also, HEPA units and air cleaners, are set to remove 99.7% of air pollutants from VOCs, PM, dust, mold, pollen as well as viruses and bacteria.  This way you can be sure that where your child spends over half the day is in a safe and healthy environment.