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Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Noise at School and Behavioral Problems in Schoolchildren

Study published in Environmental Health Perspectives

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Noise at School and Behavioral Problems in Schoolchildren

Researchers from the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), an ISGlobal allied center, and the University Pompeu Fabra (UPF) have investigated the associations of exposure to traffic-related air pollutants and noise at school on behavioral development of schoolchildren. In this study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that children between 7 and 11 years old living in Barcelona exposed to greater air pollution due to traffic near the school have more problems of behavior. Moreover, noise exposure at school was associated with more specific symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

There is growing body of evidence on associations between pre- and postnatal exposure to traffic-related air pollutants and adverse impacts on neuropsychological development of children. The air pollution is considered possible neurotoxic agent in brain development. In this context, the findings of this study confirm and extend sold prior findings as evidence that an increase in behavioral problems in school of those exposed to greater pollution. Moreover, noise exposure has been linked to a reduced number of studies with higher cognitive and behavioral problems in children. The results of this study are the first reported a clear association between exposure to noise in classrooms and major symptoms of ADHD.

 “We have evaluated children aged 7 to 11 years in Barcelona during 2012-2013 in the framework of the BREATHE project. We measured concentrations both inside and outside the classroom of elemental carbon, black carbon and NO2 in two separate campaigns for a week”, said Joan Forns, CREAL an UPF researcher and first author of this study.

The researchers also measured the noise levels inside the classroom. Parents filled out the strengths and difficulties questionnaire to assess child behavioral development, while teachers/tutors the ADHD tests to assess specific ADHD symptoms. “We have seen that the increases in the concentrations of elemental carbon, black carbon and NO2 inside and outdoors of the school are associated with biggest problems in the strengths and difficulties questionnaire, while increases in exposure to noise was significantly associated with increased symptoms of ADHD”, concluded Forns.


Forns J. et al. Traffic-Related Air Pollution, Noise at School, and Behavioral Problems in Barcelona Schoolchildren: A Cross-Sectional Study. Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1409449

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