Danger in the air: How air pollution can affect brain development in young children

When we shift from direct to proximate causes of disease, the environment matters a lot. Air pollution is associated with some of the biggest killers of children, such as pneumonia, which is responsible for the deaths of 920,000 children under 5 years of age every year. Air pollution is also linked with asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory infections and diseases, which can be debilitating, force children to miss school, and even cause long-lasting damage to their health and wellbeing.

These effects are well established. But a growing body of scientific research points to a potential new risk that air pollution poses to children’s lives and futures: its impact on their developing brains.4-6 This should concern us all.