A study on children’s health revealed that fourth and fifth graders exposed to toxic air pollutants at home are more likely to have lower GPAs.
University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) researchers analyzed academic performance and sociodemographic data for 1,895 fourth and fifth grade children living in El Paso, Texas that were attending the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD).
They used the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Air Toxics Assessment to estimate children’s exposure to toxic air pollutants, such as diesel exhaust, around the location of their homes.
Children who were exposed to high levels of motor vehicle emissions from cars, trucks and buses on roads and highways were found to have significantly lower GPAs, even when accounting for other factors known to influence school performance. The results of the study were published in the academic journal Population and Environment.
“There are two pathways that can help us to explain this association,” said the study’s co-author Sara E. Grineski, Ph.D., an associate professor of sociology and anthropology at UTEP. “Some evidence suggests that this association might exist because of illnesses, such as respiratory infections or asthma. Air pollution makes children sick, which leads to absenteeism and poor performance in school. The other hypothesis is that chronic exposure to air toxics can negatively affect children’s neurological and brain development.”