A new study has found that children who are exposed to toxic air pollutants at home are more likely to have lower grade point averages (GPAs).
Researchers at the University of Texas at El Paso analyzed academic performance and sociodemographic data for 1,895 fourth and fifth grade children who were attending the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD).
They then used the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Air Toxics Assessment to estimate children’s exposure to toxic air pollutants, such as diesel exhaust, around their homes.
The researchers found that children who were exposed to high levels of motor vehicle emissions from cars, trucks, and buses on roads and highways were found to have significantly lower GPAs, even when accounting for other factors known to influence school performance.
“There are two pathways that can help us to explain this association,” said the study’s co-author, Sara E. Grineski, Ph.D., an associate professor of sociology and anthropology.
“Some evidence suggests that this association might exist because of illnesses, such as respiratory infections or asthma. Air pollution makes children sick, which leads to absenteeism and poor performance in school. The other hypothesis is that chronic exposure to air toxics can negatively affect children’s neurological and brain development.”
This is the ninth study to emerge from a 2012 children’s respiratory health survey developed at UTEP that was mailed to the homes of fourth and fifth graders enrolled in all 58 elementary schools in the district.
Parents and guardians answered questions about their children’s grades in reading, language arts, math, social studies, and science. The survey also asked about the family’s income, household size, parent’s education level, and if the child qualified for free or reduced-price meals.
Grineski notes that this isn’t a phenomenon unique to this particular school district.
“What makes our study different is that we are actually studying kids in their home setting, but there’s a body of literature where they have studied levels of air pollution at schools in California and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, instead of at children’s homes,” she said.
“A study on the Los Angeles Unified School District showed that schools with higher levels of pollution have lower standardized test scores.”
The study was published in the academic journal Population and Environment.
Source: University of Texas at El Paso