IQ Ratings Suffer from Car Pollution, Tobacco Exposure

Natural Society

We are all subject to the dangers of air pollution. Even if you live in the country, you are exposed to some level of pollution, from your own vehicle or tobacco if you smoke. But a study from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health finds that high levels of pollution can affect the eventual intelligence of children, making for lower IQ ratings. Other studies link the same pollutants to depression, asthma, and many other health concerns.

Pollution From Cars, Tobacco Linked with Lower IQ Ratings

The study looked at prenatal exposure to air pollution, specifically polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). What they found was pregnant mothers exposed to high levels of these pollutants gave birth to children who would eventually have significantly lower IQ ratings based on intelligence tests at age 5.

These pollutants (PAHs) come from the burning of fossil fuels, used in vehicles and industry. They are also emitted in smaller amounts from the burning of organic materials like tobacco, according to

The study looked at 214 children born to healthy, non-smoking white Polish mothers between 2001 and 2006. During pregnancy the women wore air monitors in small backpacks to measure their exposure to pollutants. They also provided blood and cord samples at the time of delivery.

The children were then tested and monitored through the age of five. They were tested on reasoning and intelligence and were found to have lower IQ ratings as exposure to pollution increased.

A similar study in New York in 2009 found similar results with low IQ ratings among children born to nonsmoking African American and Dominican American women.

Frederica Perera, author of the New York study says these findings are significant because they show air pollution exposure could be “educationally meaningful in terms of school performance.” She also points out, however, that air pollution, in general, has declined somewhat over the past decade or so.

PAH exposure in the womb has also been linked to things like asthma, low birth weight, premature delivery, and heart malformation.

A more recent study from Environmental Health Perspectives found that prenatal exposure to pollutants is associated with a 24% higher score of anxiety and depression in young children. Children as young as six and seven are experiencing depression and anxiety because of toxins in our air.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health, we are exposed to PAHs in a number of ways:

Breathing: Most people are exposed to PAHs when they breathe in smoke, auto emissions or industrial exhausts. Most exhausts contain many different PAH compounds. People with the highest exposures are smokers, people who live or work with smokers, roofers, road builders and people who live near major highways or industrial sources.

Drinking/Eating: Charcoal-broiled foods, especially meats, are a source of some PAH exposure. Shellfish living in contaminated water may be another major source of exposure. PAHs may be in groundwater near disposal sites where construction wastes or ash are buried; people may be exposed by drinking this water. Vegetables do not absorb significant amounts of PAHs that are in soil.

Touching: PAHs can be absorbed through skin too. Exposure can come from handling contaminated soil or bathing in contaminated water. Low levels of these chemicals may be absorbed when a person uses medicated skin cream or shampoo containing PAHs.

Using skin care products containing PAHs, cooking with charcoal, and job choice can all impact our exposure.

BP’s Corexit Oil Tar Sponged Up by Human Skin

Mother Jones

The Surfrider Foundation has released its preliminary “State of the Beach” study for the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s ongoing Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Sadly, things aren’t getting cleaner faster, according to their results. The Corexit that BP used to “disperse” the oil now appears to be making it tougher for microbes to digest the oil. I wrote about this problem in depth in “The BP Cover-Up.”

The persistence of Corexit mixed with crude oil has now weathered to tar, yet is traceable to BP’s Deepwater Horizon brew through its chemical fingerprint. The mix creates a fluorescent signature visible under UV light. From the report:

The program uses newly developed UV light equipment to detect tar product and reveal where it is buried in many beach areas and also where it still remains on the surface in the shoreline plunge step area. The tar product samples are then analyzed…to determine which toxins may be present and at what concentrations. By returning to locations several times over the past year and analyzing samples, we’ve been able to determine that PAH concentrations in most locations are not degrading as hoped for and expected.

Worse, the toxins in this unholy mix of Corexit and crude actually penetrate wet skin faster than dry skin (photos above)—the author describes it as the equivalent of a built-in accelerant—though you’d never know it unless you happened to look under fluorescent light in the 370nm spectrum. The stuff can’t be wiped off. It’s absorbed into the skin.

And it isn’t going away. Other findings from monitoring sites between Waveland, Mississippi, and Cape San Blas, Florida over the past two years:

The use of Corexit is inhibiting the microbial degradation of hydrocarbons in the crude oil and has enabled concentrations of the organic pollutants known as PAH to stay above levels considered carcinogenic by the NIH and OSHA.

26 of 32 sampling sites in Florida and Alabama had PAH concentrations exceeding safe limits.
Only three locations were found free of PAH contamination.
Carcinogenic PAH compounds from the toxic tar are concentrating in surface layers of the beach and from there leaching into lower layers of beach sediment. This could potentially lead to contamination of groundwater sources.
The full Surfrider Foundation report by James H. “Rip” Kirby III, of the University of South Florida is open-access online here.