Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and ADD

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and ADD
Developing Attention Deficit Disorder can't usually be tied to just one event in the life of a fetus. It is a subtle interplay between genetics and the environment. There's the genetic component, which can include single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). This is a genetic variation that can change an amino acid in a section of DNA. Other genetic variations may also be involved in the development of Attention Deficit Disorder. A copy number variant (CNV) is a tiny segment of DNA that is unique to each individual. Sometimes, CNVs are missing, and at other times there are multiples. Researchers have shown that ADD can be, in part, linked to CNVs on Chromosome 16. That's a chromosome that impacts brain development. Fetal insult by pollutants also plays a part in the development of ADD in children.

Researchers at Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health at the Mailman School of Public Health. recently studied the effects of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are a by-product of burning fossil fuels, and their relationship to the development of Attention Deficit Disorder in children. The test subjects were 233 children of non-smoking mothers in New York City. The researchers found that fetal exposure to PAH gave the children five times the risk of developing the inattentive type of Attention Deficit Disorder by the age of 9.

What can a pregnant woman do to avoid contamination with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons? If you have a choice of residences, do your research and find a place to live with low PAH values. Don't live near a facility that uses a large amount of fossil fuels. Find a home away from busy streets or highways where there is a lot of PAH in the air. When that is not an option, limit your time outside when the air quality is poor.

PAH joins a growing list of factors that researchers have identified as possible prenatal causative agents in developing Attention Deficit Disorder. This list also includes maternal smoking, fetal lead exposure, and a mother's use of acetaminophen. The relationship between PAH and developing Attention Deficit Disorder is not completely understood. Multiple hypotheses have been put forward in the paper that details the study. They include " several possibilities, including the disruption of the endocrine system, DNA damage, oxidative stress, and interference with placental growth factors resulting in decreased exchange of oxygen and nutrients." More research with a larger sample needs to be conducted. However, it is clear that breathing or ingesting pollutants while a woman is pregnant should be avoided as much as possible.


Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "ADHD-air pollution link: Breathing dirty air during pregnancy raises odds of childhood ADHD-related behavior problems." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 November 2014. .

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ADD and Acetaminophen Use in Pregnancy
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