Journal of Public Health Policy

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 327–336

Prenatal exposure to airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and IQ: Estimated benefit of pollution reduction

  • Frederica Perera
  • Katherine Weiland
  • Matthew Neidell
  • Shuang Wang
Original Article

Abstract

Outdoor air pollution, largely from fossil fuel burning, is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States, costing billions of dollars every year in health care and loss of productivity. The developing fetus and young child are especially vulnerable to neurotoxicants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) released to ambient air by combustion of fossil fuel and other organic material. Low-income populations are disproportionately exposed to air pollution. On the basis of the results of a prospective cohort study in a low-income population in New York City (NYC) that found a significant inverse association between child IQ and prenatal exposure to airborne PAH, we estimated the increase in IQ and related lifetime earnings in a low-income urban population as a result of a hypothesized modest reduction of ambient PAH concentrations in NYC of 0.25 ng/m3. For reference, the current estimated annual mean PAH concentration is ~1 ng/m3. Restricting to NYC Medicaid births and using a 5 per cent discount rate, we estimated the gain in lifetime earnings due to IQ increase for a single year cohort to be US$215 million (best estimate). Using much more conservative assumptions, the estimate was $43 million. This analysis suggests that a modest reduction in ambient concentrations of PAH is associated with substantial economic benefits to children.

Keywords

PAH IQ cost-benefit analysis neurodevelopment prenatal children 

References

  1. American Lung Association. (2013) State of the Air 2013 Report.Google Scholar
  2. Trasande, L. and Liu, Y. (2011) Reducing the staggering costs of environmental disease in children, estimated at $76.6 billion in 2008. Health Affairs (Millwood) 30 (5): 863–870.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Landrigan, P.J., Schechter, C.B., Lipton, J.M., Fahs, M.C. and Schwartz, J. (2002) Environmental pollutants and disease in American children: Estimates of morbidity, mortality, and costs for lead poisoning, asthma, cancer, and developmental disabilities. Environmental Health Perspectives 110 (7): 721–728.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Olden, K., Ramos, R.M. and Freudenberg, N. (2009) To reduce urban disparities in health, strengthen and enforce equitably environmental and consumer laws. Journal of Urban Health 86 (6): 819–824.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Perera, F.P. et al (2002) The challenge of preventing environmentally related disease in young children: Community-based research in New York City. Environmental Health Perspectives 110 (2): 197–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Claudio, L., Tulton, L., Doucette, J. and Landrigan, P.J. (1999) Socioeconomic factors and asthma hospitalization rates in New York City. Journal of Asthma 36 (4): 343–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Federico, M.J. and Liu, A.H. (2003) Overcoming childhood asthma disparities of the inner-city poor. Pediatric Clinics of North America 50 (3): 655–675.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. New York City Department of Health. (1998) Vital Statistics. New York City: New York City Department of Health.Google Scholar
  9. NRC. (1993) Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children. Washington DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  10. Perera, F.P. et al (2004) Biomarkers in maternal and newborn blood indicate heightened fetal susceptibility to procarcinogenic DNA damage. Environmental Health Perspectives 112 (10): 1133–1136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. World Health Organization. (1986) Principles for Evaluating Health Risks from Chemicals During Infancy and Early Childhood: The Need for a Special Approach. Environmental Health Criteria 59. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.Google Scholar
  12. Grandjean, P. and Landrigan, P.J. (2006) Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial chemicals. Lancet 368 (9553): 2167–2178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Perera, F.P. et al (2012) Prenatal polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure and child behavior at age 6–7. Environmental Health Perspectives 120 (6): 921–926.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Wormley, D.D. et al (2004) Inhaled benzo(a)pyrene impairs long-term potentiation in the F1 generation rat dentate gyrus. Cellular and Molecular Biology (Noisy-le-grand) 50 (6): 715–721.Google Scholar
  15. Perera, F.P. et al (2006) Effect of prenatal exposure to airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on neurodevelopment in the first 3 years of life among inner-city children. Environmental Health Perspectives 114 (8): 1287–1292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Perera, F.P. et al (2009) Prenatal airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure and child IQ at age 5 years. Pediatrics 124 (2): e195–e202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Grosse, S.D., Matte, T.D., Schwartz, J. and Jackson, R.J. (2002) Economic gains resulting from the reduction in children’s exposure to lead in the United States. Environmental Health Perspectives 110 (6): 563–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Trasande, L., Landrigan, P.J. and Schechter, C. (2005) Public health and economic consequences of methyl mercury toxicity to the developing brain. Environmental Health Perspectives 113 (5): 590–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jusko, T.A., Henderson, C.R., Lanphear, B.P., Cory-Slechta, D.A., Parsons, P.J. and Canfield, R.L. (2008) Blood lead concentrations<10 microg/dL and child intelligence at 6 years of age. Environmental Health Perspectives 116 (2): 243–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Pleil, J.D., Vette, A.F., Johnson, B.A. and Rappaport, S.M. (2004) Air levels of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons after the World Trade Center disaster. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 101 (32): 11685–11688.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Rundle, A.H. et al (2012) Association of childhood obesity with maternal exposure to ambient air polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons during pregnancy. American Journal of Epidemiology 175 (11): 1163–1172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Choi, H. et al (2008) Estimating individual-level exposure to airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons throughout the gestational period based on personal, indoor, and outdoor monitoring. Environmental Health Perspectives 116 (11): 1509–1518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Naumova, Y.Y. et al (2002) Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the indoor and outdoor air of three cities in the U.S. Environmental Science and Technology 36 (12): 2552–2559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Weiland, K., Neidell, M., Rauh, V. and Perera, F. (2011) Cost of developmental delay from prenatal exposure to airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved 22 (1): 320–329.Google Scholar
  25. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. (2009) The New York city community air survey: Results from year one monitoring 2008–2009 Stevens L.M. (ed.) New York: New York City Health Department.Google Scholar
  26. Li, W., Kelley, D. and Kennedy, J. (2003) Summary of Vital Statistics 2002: NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.Google Scholar
  27. Grosse, S.D. (2007) How much does IQ raise earnings? Implications for regulatory impact analyses. Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (AERE) 27 (2): 44.Google Scholar
  28. Heckman James, J., Stixrud, J. and Urzua, S. (2006) The effects of cognitive and noncognitive abilities on labor market outcomes and social behavior. Journal of Labor Economics 24 (3): 411–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gold, M.R., Siegel, J.E., Russel, L.B. and Weinstein, M.C. (eds.) (1996) Cost Effectiveness in Health and Medicine. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Miller, R.L. et al (2004) Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, environmental tobacco smoke, and respiratory symptoms in an inner-city birth cohort. Chest 126 (4): 1071–1078.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Bostrom, C.E. et al (2002) Cancer risk assessment, indicators, and guidelines for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the ambient air. Environmental Health Perspectives 110 (Supplement 3): 451–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kaplan, C. (1996) Predictive validity of the WPPSI-R: A four year follow-up study. Psychology in the Schools 33 (3): 211–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lemelin, J. P. et al (2007) The genetic-environmental etiology of cognitive school readiness and later academic achievement in early childhood. Child Development 78 (6): 1855–1869.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sheffield, P., Roy, A., Wong, K. and Trasande, L. (2011) Fine particulate matter pollution linked to respiratory illness in infants and increased hospital costs. Health Affairs (Millwood) 30 (5): 871–878.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kan, H. and Chen, B. (2004) Particulate air pollution in urban areas of Shanghai, China: Health-based economic assessment. Science of the Total Environment 322 (1–3): 71–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Zhang, M., Song, Y. and Cai, X. (2007) A health-based assessment of particulate air pollution in urban areas of Beijing in 2000–2004. Science of the Total Environment 376 (1–3): 100–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pérez, L., Sunyer, J. and Künzli, N. (2009) Estimating the health and economic benefits associated with reducing air pollution in the Barcelona metropolitan area (Spain). Gaceta Sanitaria 23 (4): 287–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frederica Perera
    • 1
    • 2
  • Katherine Weiland
    • 3
    • 4
  • Matthew Neidell
    • 4
  • Shuang Wang
    • 2
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Health SciencesMailman School of Public Health, Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationPalo AltoUSA
  4. 4.Department of Health Policy and ManagementMailman School of Public Health, Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  5. 5.Department of BiostatisticsMailman School of Public Health, Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations