Brains, as well as bodies, are put at risk. A recent US study found lower IQ in children of mothers exposed to higher levels of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), the main toxins in woodsmoke. After controlling for variables, IQ was 5 points lower, about 4%, than for children born to mothers with lower PAH exposure. This is the first study to report an association between prenatal exposure to PAHs and IQ. Study: Prenatal Airborne Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Exposure and Child IQ at Age 5 Years published in Pediatrics 7/2009.
The Pediatrics study references other research which has found associations of air pollution with developmental delays; significantly higher rate of teacher referrals for clinical assessment; fetal growth reduction, including reduced birth weight and birth head circumference and/or small size for gestational age; delayed motor development; and other problems.
What are PAHs? According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry:
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of over 100 different chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas, garbage, or other organic substances like tobacco or charbroiled meat. PAHs are usually found as a mixture containing two or more of these compounds, such as soot.