Prenatal Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) Exposure and Child Behavior at age 6-7

Background: Airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are widespread urban air pollutants from fossil fuel burning and other combustion sources. We previously reported that a broad spectrum of combustion-related DNA adducts in cord blood was associated with attention problems at age 6-7 in the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) longitudinal cohort study.

Objectives: We have evaluated the relationship between behavioral problems and two differentmeasures of prenatal exposure—both specific to PAH– in the same cohort.

Methods: Children of nonsmoking African-American and Dominican women in New York City (NYC) were followed from in utero to 6-7 years. Prenatal PAH exposure was estimated by personal air monitoring of the mothers during pregnancy as well as by the measurement of DNA adducts specific to benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P), a representative PAH, in maternal and cord blood. At age 6-7 child behavior was assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) (N=253). Generalized linear models were used to test the association between prenatal PAH exposure and behavioral outcomes.

Results: In multivariate analyses, high prenatal PAH exposure, whether characterized by personal air monitoring (greater than the median of 2.27 ng/m3) or maternal and cord adducts (>detectable), was positively associated with symptoms of Anxious/Depressed and Attention Problems (p value < 0.05).

Conclusion: These results provide additional evidence that environmental levels of PAH encountered in NYC air can adversely affect child behavior.