a detailed synopsis of the study
17 January 2003
Linked to Low Birth Weights in African-Americans
By LYDIA POLGREEN
in the air in Upper Manhattan and the South Bronx have been linked
to lower birth weights and smaller skulls in African-American babies,
according to a long-term study on the unusually high rate of childhood
asthma in those areas.
a paper to be published next month in the journal Environmental
Health Perspectives, researchers at Columbia University's Mailman
School of Public Health found that African-American women exposed
to high levels of everyday pollutants in automobile exhaust, cigarette
smoke and incinerators in the third trimester of pregnancy tended
to have smaller babies with smaller than average skulls.
Frederica Perera, director of the Columbia Center for Children's
Environmental Health, said the study's findings were particularly
troubling because low birth weight and smaller skulls had been found
to correspond with poor health and mental problems later in life.
number of studies have reported that reduction in head circumference
at birth or during the first year of life correlates with lower
I.Q. as well as poorer cognitive function," Dr. Perera said.
researchers gave small pollution monitors to 263 Dominican and African-American
women in their third trimester who lived in Upper Manhattan and
the South Bronx. The women wore the monitors on their backs for
48 hours, and researchers then analyzed the pollutants collected
in the monitors' filter. After the babies were born, researchers
checked the levels of pollutants and pesticides in their blood and
took body measurements.
African-American babies exposed to high levels of polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons, researchers saw a reduction in both birth weight and
skull circumference, Dr. Perera said. No statistically significant
problems were found among the babies born to Dominican women exposed
to high levels of the pollutants, she said, but babies in both groups
had lower birth weights when the pesticide chlorpyrifos, a chemical
commonly used in schools and public housing in New York City, was
found in their blood.
study, which began in 1998, will follow children from before birth
until their fifth birthdays and possibly beyond, Dr. Perera said.
Researchers will measure the children's overall health, breathing,
cognitive abilities and school performance to try to determine what
role, if any, urban pollutants play in the health and mental problems
that plague children in cities.