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Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Jun;120(6):921-6. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1104315. Epub 2012 Mar 14.

Prenatal polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure and child behavior at age 6-7 years.

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Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, New York 10032, USA.



Airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are widespread urban air pollutants from fossil fuel burning and other combustion sources. We previously reported that a broad spectrum of combustion-related DNA adducts in cord blood was associated with attention problems at 6-7 years of age in the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) longitudinal cohort study.


We evaluated the relationship between behavioral problems and two different measures of prenatal exposure--both specific to PAH--in the same cohort.


Children of nonsmoking African-American and Dominican women in New York City (NYC) were followed from in utero to 6-7 years. Prenatal PAH exposure was estimated by personal air monitoring of the mothers during pregnancy as well as by the measurement of DNA adducts specific to benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), a representative PAH, in maternal and cord blood. At 6-7 years of age, child behavior was assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) (n = 253). Generalized linear models were used to test the association between prenatal PAH exposure and behavioral outcomes.


In multivariate analyses, high prenatal PAH exposure, whether characterized by personal air monitoring (greater than the median of 2.27 ng/m³) or maternal and cord adducts (detectable or higher), was positively associated with symptoms of Anxious/Depressed and Attention Problems (p ≤ 0.05).


These results provide additional evidence that environmental levels of PAH encountered in NYC air can adversely affect child behavior.

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