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Multiple Schweitzer Fellows have implemented service projects aimed at maternal and prenatal health, and multiple Schweitzer Fellows have developed projects promoting environmental responsibility and environmental health.

A new study,  just released by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, suggests that these two focus areas should be closely linked.

The study has found a link between lower childhood IQ scores and prenatal exposure to air pollution, “bolstering evidence that smog may harm the developing brain”:

At age 5, before starting school, the children were given IQ tests. Those exposed to the most pollution before birth scored on average four to five points lower than children with less exposure.

Doesn’t sound like much, but

…that’s a big enough difference that it could affect children’s performance in school, said Frederica Perera, the study’s lead author and director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health.

The prevalence of air pollution in underserved communities could make smog the new lead:

While future research is needed to confirm the new results, the findings suggest exposure to air pollution before birth could have the same harmful effects on the developing brain as exposure to lead, said Patrick Breysse, an environmental health specialist at Johns Hopkins’ school of public health.

And along with other environmental harms and disadvantages low-income children are exposed to, it could help explain why they often do worse academically than children from wealthier families, Breysse said.

“It’s a profound observation,” he said. “This paper is going to open a lot of eyes.”