Air pollution exposure 'not linked to ADHD'

Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy may not be linked to an increased risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other symptoms of hyperactivity in children, according to new research.

The study was carried out at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), Spain, and involved almost 30,000 children aged between three and ten years of age in Germany, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Spain.

Exposure to nitrogen oxides and particulate matter was analysed throughout pregnancy at each participant's home address, since previous studies have suggested that prenatal exposure to air pollution may affect brain development in children.

Symptoms of ADHD were then assessed in the children born to the women using questionnaires completed by their parents and teachers.

It was found that there was no correlation between exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and an increased risk of ADHD symptoms.

Writing in the journal Epidemiology, coordinator of the study Monica Guxens said that despite the discovery, she believes pollutants in the air could still be having harmful effects on neuropsychological development.

"We will continue to study the role of air pollution in order to rule out its association with childhood ADHD and improve our understanding of what causes this disorder," she added.

ADHD is the most common childhood behavioural disorder and affects around five per cent of children worldwide. As many as 400,000 children are believed to have it in the UK, with many being prescribed drugs as a result.

Meanwhile, analysis by Unicef UK suggests that one in three children in the UK lives in an area with unsafe levels of air pollution. Youngsters are also 30 per cent more likely to be exposed to harmful particulates while walking along busy roads than their parents, Global Action Plan data reveals.