Researchers at the University of Southern California found that children exposed to high levels of nitrogen dioxide, emitting in diesel engines, increased their childhood weight during the first year and had a higher body mass index (BMI) at the age of 10 years.
They said that the findings have significant public health interventions in view of the large number of children living near the roads.
The survey, published in Environmental Health, was followed by 2,318 children in southern California. The height and weight of children were measured annually over a four-year period and their life exposure to almost airborne air was estimated, including during the womb or during the first year of life.
It is based on previous research in which traffic contamination was identified as "the main risk factor for the development of obesity in children aged 10-18 years.
Researchers of the latest study conclude that because developmental periods affecting growth are important in the womb and the first year of life, increased exposure to close air pollution during these "critical periods" can contribute to the risk of future obesity by changing the growth path, leading to a faster BMI growth in childhood.
The publication of the survey was followed by the launch of the National Clean Air Program for Children last month, which requires funding of 153 million pounds to protect babies and children from harmful pollution effects.
- The study is available here