Friday, July 24, 2009

Good News for Expectant Military Families: Time Off for New Fathers

The 2009 National Defense Authorization Act is in full swing with many service members benefiting from basic pay and subsistence increases as well as other annual raises. Along with the routine, however, are a number of unique benefits designed to support a Soldier's roll as a family member rather than a warrior.

One such benefit approved by Congress last October stands out as a particular boon to budding fathers who happen to wear a uniform; under the Act's Section 532, married male service members are now entitled to 10 days of non-chargeable leave - which cannot be broken up into individual days - within 45 days of their child's birth. The additional benefit now gives new daddies the opportunity to bond with their bundle of joy without tapping into precious leave time normally reserved for paid vacation or emergencies.

The Army Paternity Leave Program, which became official last March in an All Army Activities Message, marks the Army as the last military branch to offer the additional benefit to its members. According to the Act's provisions, married male service members who became a father on or after Oct. 14, 2008, can retroactively take the leave time as well, which doesn't count against annual leave.

So far, the program has been used by some members here at Camp Atterbury. lst Lt. David Bryant, a mobilizations officer at Camp Atterbury, took advantage of the paternity leave in early April after the birth of his son, Braden. Bryant, who didn't have much leave time to work with around his son's birth, said that the extra time off was a huge benefit to his growing family.

"I didn't have any leave built up from my last deployment, so I was really looking at how many days I could take off following Braden's birth," he said. "Because of this program, I didn't have to dip into what little leave time I had, not to mention I was able to get used to being a dad on my time. It's a blessing to see the Army took care of my needs."

Nick Carney, a civilian contractor at Camp Atterbury, became a father earlier this spring but couldn't take any paternity leave since it was unavailable to him. "I would have taken it if it was available, but for us, it's dipping into vacation time," Carney said.

Sgt. Maj. Gina Owens of Camp Atterbury's Human Resources said the program shows an increased momentum within Army policy to give back to those who have served and sacrificed for their country.

"It's all about taking care of the Soldiers, and this is just one more way of doing that," Owens said. "It's nice that the Army recognizes the importance of having your significant other there for such an occasion."


Doctors Diagnose Nipple Pain With Camera Phone

Here's a way to show your doctor what's going on without shelling out the extra cash for repeat doctor visits:

Taking photographs or video of unusual symptoms on an ordinary camera phone can help doctors diagnose uncommon problems, say researchers in an article published on today. For example, doctors in Norway describe the case of a 25 year old pregnant woman who reported frequent episodes of severe nipple pain.

The pain came whenever her fingers, toes or nipples got cold, such as when walking barefoot on a cold floor or taking a shower, and typically lasted between five and 15 minutes and was so painful as to bring her to tears.

Along with the pain, the color of the nipples also changed; first white combined with a tingling pain ("tightening a vice screw"), then blue with a burning pain ("pouring acid"), and finally a red phase combined with numbness as the pain decreased. After the birth of her baby, the pain became so intense that she considered giving up breastfeeding.

She presented three photographs from her camera phone showing the colour changes of a typical episode.

With the help of these photographs, doctors diagnosed Raynaud's phenomenon of the nipple. The patient was given treatment, her symptoms completely resolved within one week, and she was able to continue breastfeeding with no side effects.

Raynaud's phenomenon is possibly an underdiagnosed case of nipple pain, conclude the authors, partly because primary health care workers are often not aware of this condition, and partly because the symptoms have vanished before the patient reaches the GP surgery.


Moms Battle for Right to Breast-Feed in Public.

That’s the debate currently raging as Washington prepares to join a host of other states this weekend when breast-feeding in public places becomes a civil right. That means moms can’t be embarrassed by being asked to leave or cover up in public parks, movie theaters or other public places.

On April 22, Gov. Christine Gregoire signed into law a breast-feeding civil-rights bill that amends certain state anti-discrimination statutes to give mothers the right "to breast-feed her child in any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage or amusement." It does not, however, provide any rights in relation to pumping or nursing at work." The state Human Rights Commission will investigate complaints.

In 2001, Washington enacted a law that exempts breast-feeding from the indecent-exposure laws and encourages employers to accommodate breast-feeding mothers.

This debate isn’t just going on in Washington.

In Alaska, for example, mom Jill Balgie says she was sitting on the side of a kiddie pool in Anchorage on July 15, breast-feeding her ten-month-old son with a t-shirt on and a towel, when a park employee brought a towel over to her, implying she should cover up, and asked her not to feed her child on the pool deck.

On her family’s blog, Balgie says: "The female employee kindly informed me someone had complained about me breast-feeding and I could nurse in the upper balcony or in the bathroom. She had also brought along a towel so I could cover myself. I informed her that I had been covered when I was nursing. I felt very uncomfortable, shocked and no longer wanted to patronize this establishment so I left." She also says the CEO of the park told her: "NO, NO WAY. I’M SO SICK OF YOU MILITANT BREAST-FEEDING MOTHERS." Alaska does have a law allowing breast-feeding in public.

Balgie called around to local breast-feeding advocates, and, a few days after a friend put up a Facebook page, 200 supporters signed up and rumors spread of civil disobedience — of "lactivists" organizing a breast-feeding protest in the park’s parking lot, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

As of May, 43 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, have laws with language specifically allowing women to breast-feed in any public or private location; 28 states, D.C. and the Virgin Islands exempt breast-feeding from public indecency laws, while 24 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lesbians Now Legally Parents After Insemination

Children born through artificial insemination can now legally have two female parents at birth in Washington, D.C., thanks to a new law. Prior to the law, the female partner of a birth mother would have to adopt the child at birth to become a legal parent.

The District's Domestic Partnership Judicial Determination Parentage Act of 2009 allows a consenting spouse or partner to appear on the child's birth certificate as a parent without a complicated adoption process.

American University law professor Nancy Polikoff, who helped draft the legislation, noted that when a heterosexual married couple uses artificial insemination, the husband does not have to adopt the child.

"He is the child's legal parent automatically. Now the child of a lesbian couple will have the same economic and emotional security," she told The Washington Post. "A mother should not have to adopt her own child."

The law is the first of its kind in the country. A similar law goes into effect in January 2010 in New Mexico. The D.C. Council voted earlier this year to recognize out-of-district same-sex marriages and expects to debate marriage equality later this year.


Sarah Michelle Gellar's pretty baby bump!

Sarah Michelle Gellar is finally out and about, showing off her great pregnancy style. The baby-on-the-way is the first for the 32-year-old Buffy star and her husband Freddie Prinze Jr.

After seven years of marriage Gellar and her hubby Freddie Prinze, Jr. are expecting this fall. In 2007, Gellar legally changed her name to Sarah Michelle Prinze in honor of the couple's fifth year of marriage.

The couple has kept a low profile since news broke that they are expecting their first child, but rumor has it they have a baby girl on the way!

They have been busy filming pilot television shows for HBO and ABC.


Breech Baby Delivered by Firemen

She envisioned doctors and nurses. She pictured the delivery room. Never in her craziest thoughts did Kathryn Ulibarri ever think her son was going to come into this world in the back of a racing ambulance.

Her little boy was, after all, in breech, and her doctor had told her the best way to ensure a safe delivery was to go the C-section route.

Time simply ran out on Ulibarri and the others involved in the birth of little Kaleb.

This all got going the day of July 8. She felt that it was close so she and her mother jumped in a car and drove toward Sky Ridge Medical Center.

A few minutes into the drive, they ran into that typical 5:20 p.m. traffic on westbound C-470 near Santa Fe. Kathryn's mother, Pat Ulibarri, had a bad feeling. They weren't going to make it, not in this rush-hour traffic. So she called 911.

Littleton Fire's Medic #11 was the first on scene.

"I heard some screaming from a very panicky grandma, or soon-to-be grandma. I think it was more of her screaming than mom," said Lt. Dan Arkin on Wednesday, two weeks after the boy's birth.

The team quickly realized this baby was pretty darn close to coming out, so they put everyone in the ambulance and tried to make it to Littleton Adventist Hospital.

Kaleb had other plans.

"[With a breech baby] you're afraid of a baby being stuck and not being able to breathe for a few minutes which can certainly cause damage down the road," Arkin said.

This was a first for him and his partner David Gordon. Still, they thought they'd have enough time to make it to the hospital.

"I know I was thinking, 'First-time babies, they usually take a long time,'" Gordon said.

Then he saw part of the boy, and that's when, said Gordon, "I told Reggie to drive faster."

"He has never told me to drive faster," replied Reggie Hyatt, Medic #11's driver.

Kaleb came into this world weighing 7 pounds and 15 ounces in the back of a racing ambulance.

Thankfully, even though he was turned the wrong way, he came out just fine. On Wednesday, Ulibarri and her mom came together once again to thank the Littleton Fire Department.

"We deal with all sorts of calls, good ones, bad ones, and ugly ones, and this one is by far one of the best," Arkin said.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Legislation to Give More Support to Pregnant Women

Congressman Tim Ryan (OH) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT), are lead sponsors of the Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act, and will be joined by major pro-life and pro-choice leaders (Thursday, July 23), at a press conference announcing a unique new Obama-inspired approach to the abortion debate.

In the spirit of President Barack Obama's call to find common ground between the pro-choice and pro-life communities, Congressman Ryan, a pro-life Democrat and Congresswoman DeLauro, a pro-choice Democrat, have written legislation that presents concrete progress toward the shared goal of reducing the need for abortion by preventing unintended pregnancies and supporting pregnant women and families.

Representatives Ryan and DeLauro will be joined by supporters of the bill from across the abortion divide including Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor at Northland Church and board member of the World Evangelical Alliance and the National Association of Evangelicals, representatives from NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Pastor Derrick Harkins of the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church and board member of World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals. These supporters are among dozens of prominent pro-choice and pro-life leaders from the religious community and the secular advocacy world who are united in their support for this bill.

Here are just a few snippets from the bill that might effect you:

Expanded Medicaid and CHIP Coverage for Mothers and Children: This section provides states the option to expand postpartum care - from 60 days to one year - for pregnant women whose labor and delivery are covered by Medicaid and CHIP, increases the CHIP definition of a low-income child from 200% to 250% of federal poverty guidelines, and provides an outreach program to encourage those eligible for services to enroll.

Coverage of Maternity Care: This section would close the gap in coverage of pregnant women who have individual coverage with private insurers and both remove pregnancy as a pre-existing condition, and require coverage of maternity care.

Improved Access to Prenatal Ultrasounds: This section makes grants for the purchase of ultrasound equipment available to community health centers.

Increased Support for Pregnant and Parenting Students: This section provides grants to educational institutions to provide support services to assist both pregnant students who have decided to carry their pregnancies to term and parenting students in continuing their studies and graduating.

Grants for a National Information Campaign on Adoption: This section provides grants to establish national information campaigns to educate the public about adoption, including foster care adoption.

Expanded Adoption Tax Credit Assistance: This section increases the adoption tax credit from $10,000 to $15,000 for all children and makes the credit refundable.


Weight-gain Guidelines For Women Pregnant With Twins

Healthy, normal-weight women pregnant with twins should gain between 37 and 54 pounds, according to research from a Michigan State University professor who helped shape the recently released national guidelines on gestational weight gain.

Barbara Luke, a professor in the College of Human Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology and Department of Epidemiology, helped create the guidelines for the Institute of Medicine. Her research also found overweight women should gain between 31 and 50 pounds, while obese women should gain 25 to 42 pounds.

The parameters are based on a woman’s prepregnancy body mass index.

“This amount and pattern of weight gain has been shown to be associated with the best growth before birth and the healthiest mothers throughout pregnancy,” Luke said. “By setting weight gain goals based on a woman’s prepregnancy BMI, it will be possible to maintain a trajectory of fetal growth for twins that results in more optimal birth weight with lower neonatal morbidity.

The guidelines are important, Luke said, because while only 3 percent of live births involve twins, they do make up a disproportionate number of premature, low-birth-weight and growth-retarded births. Twins are seven times more likely to die before their first birthday.

To develop the guidelines, Luke and her team analyzed data from more than 2,300 pregnancies with twins from four sites across the nation. Maternal weight gain and fetal growth then were measured at three different points to develop models of optimal weight gain.

Luke’s research group took into account study site, maternal age, race and ethnicity, smoking and fertility treatments, among other factors.


Saliva test for early birth risk

A simple saliva test could help spot which expectant women are likely to go into premature labour, experts believe.

Early identification would enable these mothers to be given steroids which help in the development of the baby's lungs, preventing disability and death.

UK researchers found women going into labour very early, before 34 weeks gestation, had abnormally low progesterone levels in their saliva.

Their study appears in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Each year in the UK more than 50,000 babies are born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, and the condition is still not well understood.

Experts suspect that the hormone progesterone plays some part and studies are underway to test whether giving women more of this hormone during pregnancy cuts the risk of a preterm birth.

The latest work by researchers at University College London and King's College London, suggests monitoring progesterone levels in saliva could provide a cheap and convenient early marker for the condition.

When they studied 92 women deemed to be at increased risk of having a preterm birth, they found the women who delivered spontaneously before 34 weeks had much lower salivary levels of progesterone than those giving birth at term, after 37 weeks.

This measurable difference in progesterone was apparent at all gestational ages from 24 weeks onwards.

It is not clear how the hormone influences the timing of labour, but experts do know progesterone has anti-inflammatory properties, suggesting low levels of the hormone in the maternal body might contribute to bacterial infection - a recognised cause of preterm birth.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cindy Crawford's Homebirth Story Available for Viewing is hosting celebrity birth stories - one each month. This month's celebrity is Cindy Crawford. She talks about deciding to have a home birth, dealing with negative reactions, how it felt and what she needed to do and how prenatal yoga helped her. It's actually pretty fascinating to hear her story.

Cindy Crawford’s birth story began on July 8th and it will culminate with an online chat with Crawford herself answering people’s questions from July 27 to 31 on the website.

Click here to view the first 3 installments.

New Labor Induction Guidelines

Doctors are being advised not to induce labor for non-medical reasons prior to 39 weeks into a pregnancy under revised guidelines released yesterday by the nation’s association of obstetricians and gynecologists.

The guidelines, the first since 1999, arrive amid concern about an increase in the number of such procedures in the last two decades. The rate of induced labor has increased from 90 per 1,000 births in 1990 to 225 per 1,000 births in 2006.

While induction is relatively safe, it’s been associated with an increased risk of cesarean section. Studies show it also leads to longer hospital stays and higher costs.

In many cases, clear-cut medical reasons exist for inducing, such as when health problems complicate a pregnancy and when pregnancies are more than two weeks past the due date.

The health problems include diabetes or high blood pressure in the pregnant woman, premature rupture of membranes that encase the unborn baby and fetal issues such as an irregular heartbeat.

The new guidelines focus mostly on setting forth when and how to induce labor in such situations.


Babies "R" Us Sued for Price Fixing

The dirty deal, according to the lawsuit, was simple. From 2001 to 2006, Babies "R" Us told companies like Medela that they had to enforce resale-price maintenance — i.e., tell the Web retailers, who can more easily discount products since they avoid brick-and-mortar costs, to sell your products at X, or you'll cut off the supply. If they resisted, Babies "R" Us threatened to cut off the manufacturers, according to the suit, and refuse to sell their products in Babies "R" Us stores. Since Babies "R" Us sold 30% to 50% of these companies' products, Medela, which is based in Switzerland, and other brands like BabyBjörn, the Swedish strapmaker, and Maclaren, the strollermaker based in the U.K., had no real choice but to go along.

"I want to let Babies 'R' Us and other retailers know that consumers aren't going to put up with unfair trade restraints," says Trzupek, who joined the plaintiff class in 2006, when the suit was originally filed. The plaintiffs are pursuing an unspecified amount in damages; attorney Beth Fegan says the price agreements affected more than $500 million worth of baby products.

While Judge Anita Brody's July 15 opinion wasn't a final ruling on the case, Babies "R" Us is portrayed as a tough negotiator intent on protecting its top marketplace position. The other companies named in the suit — Medela; Maclaren; BabyBjörn; Regal Lager, the agent supplying BabyBjörn's products to the U.S. market; Peg Perego, the Italy-based maker of strollers, car seats and high chairs; and Britax, which sells car seats and strollers — come across as weak accomplices in the scheme, which Brody distinctly labels a "conspiracy."

"These cases are very hard to win," says Lino Graglia, an antitrust expert who teaches at the University of Texas School of Law. "But if this is an instance of a powerful retailer trying to protect itself instead of trying to provide a service to the consumer, it has to be seen as a potential winner." So all you moms who splurged on that $300 breast pump a few years ago: start looking for the receipt.


Pregnancy Complications Affect Future Health And Pregnancies

Predicting whether pregnancy complications affect long-term maternal health as well as future pregnancies is at the heart of two studies conducted by researchers in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine.

The first study, published in the journal Hypertension, showed that women who have had two pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia are at a higher risk of hypertension after pregnancy.

Working in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, senior author Michael Paidas, M.D., and his team conducted a retrospective study of over 11 million women who gave birth in Denmark from 1978 to 2007. Their findings showed that among women with preeclampsia, a complication of pregnancy linked to life-threatening cardiovascular disease, the risks of subsequent hypertension risks were compounded with each affected pregnancy. Only healthy women without any other previously identified medical problems were included in the study.

"The only reliable treatment for preeclampsia is delivery of the baby," said Paidas, associate professor and co-director of Yale Women and Children's Center for Blood Disorders, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences. "But while delivery may 'cure' preeclampsia in the moment, these mothers are at high risk of chronic hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus and blood clots for the rest of their lives. Pregnancy acts like a natural stress test for women."

In a second study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, using the same Danish Registry, Paidas and his team found that preterm delivery, preeclampsia and low-birth weight tend to recur and predispose to each other in a second pregnancy. The severity of the complication in the first pregnancy further increases these risks.

For example, women whose first delivery occurred full term had a 2.7% risk for having a preterm delivery in the second pregnancy. However, if their first pregnancy resulted in a delivery between 32 and 36 weeks of gestation, the risk of a preterm delivery in the second pregnancy increased to 14.7%. Similarly, if their first pregnancy resulted in an even earlier preterm delivery— between 28 and 32 weeks of gestation—the risk of a preterm delivery in the second pregnancy increased to 25.4%. Delivery between 20 and 27 weeks in the first pregnancy doubled the risk for delivering a baby that was small for gestational age in the second pregnancy.

"Our data from this study suggest that spontaneous preterm delivery, preeclampsia, low fetal growth, placental abruption and stillbirth in a first and second pregnancy are interrelated," said Paidas. "Perhaps they all may be features of a 'placenta-associated syndrome.' Healthy women with a significant pregnancy complication that is considered part of the placenta-associated syndrome are vulnerable in the second pregnancy. Therefore care providers should tailor surveillance, prevention and/or treatment interventions in these patients."


Stressed-out parents plus pollution boost asthma risk

There may be a reason that children's asthma rates are so high in urban areas. Youngsters with stressed-out parents and exposure to air pollution have a higher risk of asthma, according to a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The new study raises some questions about why stress-plus-pollution leads to worse problems than either alone," says Harold J. Farber, M.D., an associate professor of the pediatric pulmonary section at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children Hospital, in Houston, and the author of "Control Your Child's Asthma." "Why is it that this combination is somewhat more toxic than either alone?"

In the United States, about 22 million people -- including 6 million children -- have asthma. City-dwelling children have about a 22 to 45 percent higher risk of developing asthma than their peers living elsewhere.

What's more, parental stress also seemed to exacerbate the effect of maternal smoking during pregnancy, according to the study. Children who had stressed-out parents and were exposed to cigarette smoke during pregnancy were two to three times more likely to develop asthma than children exposed to cigarette smoke alone. Stress and low socioeconomic conditions (such as not finishing high school) on their own did not increase a child's risk of developing asthma.

If your child develops any signs or symptoms of asthma -- such as a chronic cough or wheezing -- get it checked out as soon as possible, Farber advises. "If you think your child may be predisposed to asthma, don't live near a freeway; if you do live near a freeway, get on top of your stress and look at stress management programs and/or moving."

Neil Schachter, M.D., the director of respiratory care at Mount Sinai Medical Center, in New York City, and the author of "The Good Doctor's Guide to Colds and Flu," agrees.

"Stress alone does not provoke or make asthma worse, unless it is in conjunction with other known risk factors such as traffic-related air pollution," he says. "If a child lives in the country and is not exposed to air pollution, parental stress does not make it worse."


Babies understand dog-speak, new study finds

Research from Brigham Young University (BYU) gives new meaning to the expression "babes in the woods." It turn out, babies may not be as naive as we once thought — especially where their canine counterparts are concerned.

A new study shows that babies can "speak dog" (or at least comprehend it), even with little or no previous exposure to dogs. Infants just six months old matched the sounds of an angry bark and a friendly yap to photos of dogs displaying threatening or welcoming body language, respectively.

While paring babies and dogs might seem like a zany idea, according to BYU, experiments of this kind help us understand how babies learn. Long before they master speech, babies astutely recognize and respond to external stimuli.

These findings come on the heels of a study from the same Brigham Young University lab showing that infants can also detect mood swings in Beethoven's music.

"Emotion is one of the first things babies pick up on in their social world," said BYU psychology professor Ross Flom, lead author of the study. "We chose dogs because they are highly communicative creatures both in their posture and the nature of their bark," Flom said.

In the experiment, the babies were shown two different pictures of the same dog, one in an aggressive posture and the other in a friendly stance. Then the researchers played — in random order — sound clips of a friendly and an aggressive dog bark.

While the recordings played, the six-month-old babies spent most of their time staring at the appropriate picture. Older babies usually made the connection instantly with their very first glance.

Study co-authors Dan Hyde and Heather Whipple Stephenson conducted the experiments as undergrads and don't recall any babies getting upset. "Infants are pretty cooperative subjects," Stephenson said.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Fathers to get DNA paternity test over the counter

The first over-the-counter paternity test kit will be on sale within weeks.

The £30 pack will allow a man to check his DNA against a child's to identify whether he is the biological father.

International Biosciences, the British company launching the kits in chemists, claimed they were legal, safe and at least 99.9 per cent reliable.

But medical ethical experts warned that DIY paternity tests would foster a 'culture of suspicion' and could cause heartbreak for rejected children.

DNA testing is a growing industry, fueled in part by daytime talk shows, where bitter paternity disputes are played out in front of the cameras.

International Biosciences claims the kits 'offer consumers a quick, convenient and affordable solution that doesn't require any courts, doctors or solicitors'.

Ian Meekins, head of the company in the UK, said the packs had been available on the internet for years.

'They are aimed at everybody,' he said. 'We have ladies who aren't sure who the father of a child is, and there are chaps who want to find out. We don't stand as moral guardians and we don't judge. We give people factual information.'

The kits come with six swabs for collecting samples of DNA, which is then sent to New Mexico, America, for testing at an additional fee of £119. The results are posted, emailed or given over the phone in just one week.

Mr Meekins said the tests showed whether the man was not the father a 100 per cent of the time. They were 99.9 per cent effective in showing he was the father. But if a mother's DNA was also submitted, then a positive test was also 100 per cent accurate, he said.

The results will not be accepted as evidence in court.

It is illegal in Britain to take DNA from an adult without consent. But it is legal to take a swab from those under 16 as long as consent is obtained from a guardian. That would allow a father to test whether he is a child's biological parent without the mother's knowledge.

Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said the easy availability of paternity tests raised deep concerns.

'The discovery that a child isn't related to their father can have a huge impact on that child.'


IQ can be affected by pregnant mother's exposure to air pollutants

Prenatal exposure to environmental pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can adversely affect a child's intelligence quotient or IQ, according to new research by the the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) at the Mailman School of Public Health. PAHs are chemicals released into the air from the burning of coal, diesel, oil and gas, or other organic substances such as tobacco. In urban areas motor vehicles are a major source of PAHs. The study findings are published in the August 2009 issue of Pediatrics.

The study, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a component of the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several private foundations, found that children exposed to high levels of PAHs in New York City had full scale and verbal IQ scores that were 4.31 and 4.67 points lower, respectively than those of less exposed children. High PAH levels were defined as above the median of 2.26 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m3).

"These findings are of concern because these decreases in IQ could be educationally meaningful in terms of school performance," says Frederica Perera, DrPH, professor of Environmental Health Sciences and director of the CCCEH at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and study lead author. "The good news is that we have seen a decline in air pollution exposure in our cohort since 1998, testifying to the importance of policies to reduce traffic congestion and other sources of fossil fuel combustion byproducts."

The study included children who were born to non-smoking Black and Dominican American women age 18 to 35 who resided in Washington Heights, Harlem or the South Bronx in New York. The children were followed from in utero to 5 years of age. The mothers wore personal air monitors during pregnancy to measure exposure to PAHs and they responded to questionnaires.

At 5 years of age, 249 children were given an intelligence test known as the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of the Intelligence, which provides verbal, performance and full-scale IQ scores. The researchers developed models to calculate the associations between prenatal PAH exposure and IQ. They accounted for other factors such as second-hand smoke exposure, lead, mother's education and the quality of the home caretaking environment. Study participants exposed to air pollution levels below the average were designated as having "low exposure," while those exposed to pollution levels above the average were identified as "high exposure." A total of 140 children were classified as having high PAH exposure.

"The decrease in full-scale IQ score among the more exposed children is similar to that seen with low-level lead exposure," noted Dr. Perera. "This finding is of concern because IQ is an important predictor of future academic performance, and PAHs are widespread in urban environments and throughout the world. Fortunately, airborne PAH concentrations can be reduced through currently available controls, alternative energy sources and policy interventions."