Over the past few decades, the number of children with developmental, behavioral, or emotional problems has skyrocketed.  Scientists are unsure of the cause and have spent most of their time and money searching for a genetic cause – a search that has proved disappointing.

However, more science has been emerging looking at environmental factors, specifically how those factors may affect a growing brain.  A new study in the journalEnvironmental Health Perspectives found that prenatal exposure to high levels of airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons is associated with adverse behaviors in children.

The study followed 253 children from in utero to 6 to 7 years of age and found a positive association between high exposure and children’s symptoms of anxiety/depression and attention problems.  According to the authors, “This study provides evidence that prenatal exposure to environmental [polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons] at levels encountered in the air of New York City may influence child behavior…that could impact cognitive development and ability to learn.”

This is further evidence suggesting the environment, specifically our impact on the environment, can influence our health.  In a previous Weekly Health Tip I reported how fast-paced cartoons, like SpongeBob Square Pants, contributes to attention and learning difficulties.  Parents should be aware of other potential factors, such as: chemicals in cleaning products, food preservatives and hormones, antibacterial soaps, non-stick coating, and medication that could influence immune health and hormonal balance.

While you may not be able to limit your outdoor exposure to smog, here are some tips you can take:

  1. Check cleaning/hygiene products at the Environmental Working Group for potential carcinogenic, allergic, or otherwise dangerous ingredients.
  2. Avoid using antibacterial soaps or non-stick cookware, which contain chemicals that can disrupt normal hormone levels.
  3. Use high-quality air filters indoors and try to avoid long-term exposure to high-traffic areas – especially if you’re pregnant.

Of course, make sure to have your family regularly checked by a chiropractor.  Since environmental and chemical stress can negatively affect the nervous system, regular visits to the chiropractor help your body function more efficiently so you can more effectively heal.  If your child is already experiencing behavior or developmental problems, it makes chiropractic care even more important, as chiropractic can make a tremendous impact on the cognitive and developmental health of children and teenagers.