BACKGROUND: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), including benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), are air pollutants released by the World Trade Center (WTC) fires and urban combustion sources. BaP-DNA adducts provide a measure of PAH-specific genetic damage, which has been associated with increased risk of adverse birth outcomes and cancer. We previously reported that levels of BaP-DNA adducts in maternal and umbilical cord blood obtained at delivery were elevated among subjects who had resided within 1 mile of the WTC site during the month after 9/11; and that elevated blood adducts in combination with in utero exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) were significantly associated with decreased fetal growth.
OBJECTIVE: Our aim was to assess possible effects of prenatal exposure to WTC pollutants on child development.
METHODS: After 11 September 2001, we enrolled a cohort of nonsmoking pregnant women who delivered at three lower Manhattan hospitals. We have followed a subset of children through their third birthdays and measured cognitive and motor development using the Bayley-II Scales of Child Development (BSID-II).
RESULTS: In multivariate analyses, we found a significant interaction between cord blood adducts and in utero exposure to ETS on mental development index score at 3 years of age (p = 0.02, n = 98) whereas neither adducts nor ETS alone was a significant predictor of (BSID-II) cognitive development.
CONCLUSION: Although limited by small numbers, these results suggest that exposure to elevated levels of PAHs in conjunction with prenatal ETS exposure may have contributed to a modest reduction in cognitive development among cohort children.