Outdoor and indoor air quality and cognitive ability in young children

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This study examined outdoor and indoor air quality at ages 9 months and 3 years and their association with cognitive ability at age 3 in England and Wales.


Data from 8198 Millennium Cohort Study children were analysed using multilevel regression. Outdoor air quality was assessed with mean annual estimates of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels within a standard small area (ward). Indoor air quality was measured with parent-reports of damp or condensation in the home and exposure to secondhand smoke in the home. Cognitive ability was assessed with the British Ability Scales Naming Vocabulary subscale and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment.


In adjusted models, consistent exposure to high levels of NO2 at age 9 months and age 3 years was associated with lower verbal ability at age 3 years. Damp/condensation and secondhand smoke in the home at either age or at both ages were correlated with lower school readiness at age 3 years. Exposures to damp/condensation at age 3 years or at both ages and secondhand smoke at either age or at both ages were associated with lower verbal ability at age 3 years.


Young children's exposures to indoor damp or condensation and secondhand smoke are likely to be detrimental for their cognitive outcomes. However, there do not appear to be any short-term effects of NO2.

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