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Is the air pollution affecting children’s performance at school?

The Catalan scientist Jordi Sunyer is developing a research study on how children’s brains are affected by air pollution. The hypothesis is that pollution diminisihes children’s capacities to learn.

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19 April 2011 07:13 PM

by

ACN / Aleix Moldes

Barcelona (ACN).- Leaded fuel was discovered to be negatively affecting children taking intelligence tests. Test scores were 6 points lower for children exposed to this kind of fuel, which was banned in the EU in 2001. Scientific research confirmed that leaded fuel is not only damaging for the environment, but also has harmful effects for human lungs and brains. The co-director of the Centre for Environmental Epidemiology Research of Catalonia (CREAL), Jordi Sunyer, is leading a new study that will explore the impact of pollution on academic performance. Up to 4.000 children from 40 different schools will take part in the investigation. \u201CSmall-particle pollution in the air might affect brain nerve connections,\u201D said Sunyer in an interview with the CNA. His theory has already been tested on animals, but no research on human beings has been developed yet. This is why the study the CREAL study has received an Advanced Grand worth three million euros from the European Union.


\u201CA child brain is an organ in development and is vulnerable,\u201D explained Sunyer, who added that this is the reason why children can be more affected by pollution. The scientist said that small-particle pollution caused by diesel engines in vehicles is especially harmful.

The aim of Sunyer\u2019s research is to design a pollution-map of the schools and areas that students cross to get from home to class. The map will show children\u2019s exposure to pollution, and how it differs amongst schools. \u201CWe know that in Barcelona some schools are 10 times more exposed to pollution than others,\u201D said Sunyer, who is working on the hypothesis that pollution affects children\u2019s learning process. He aims to demonstrate that \u201Cthe higher the pollution, the poorer the academic performance\u201D. If such a statement is discovered to be true, it would mean a huge step forward in understanding learning processes as well as conduct disorders and brain diseases.

To carry out the research, scientists will use: a GPS system; equipment for measuring energy used by children; and a device calculating air pollution in a specific location. All the data will be then used to develop tests with voluntary kids. \u201CThe conclusions will help to introduce changes at the most polluted schools and the health advantages will be perceived more quickly\u201D, argued Sunyer.

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  • Jordi Sunyer is leading this research project on the link between air pollution and children's brain connections (by A. Moldes)

  • Jordi Sunyer is leading this research project on the link between air pollution and children's brain connections (by A. Moldes)
Is the air pollution affecting children’s performance at school?