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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Maryland: Researchers Present Policy Recommendations for Improving Children’s Brain Health by Reducing Air Pollution

Exposure to air pollutants related to combustion — produced from burning fossil fuels for power and transportation, among other sources — can adversely affect children’s brain development, contributing to shortcomings in intelligence, memory and behavior.

To address the issue, a group of researchers, health providers and advocates called Project TENDR (Targeting Environmental Neurodevelopmental Risks) published a commentary in the American Journal of Public Health this month outlining eight policy recommendations for reducing air pollution. Dr. Devon Payne-Sturges, assistant professor with the Maryland Institute of Applied Environmental Health at the University of Maryland, was the lead author.

The authors suggest that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) focus on neurodevelopmental effects when setting pollutant standards and that the federal government abide by and strengthen existing vehicle fuel efficiency standards. At the state and local levels, governments should restrict existing and future sources of combustion-related emissions and promote clean energy policies, the authors recommend.

To inform future policies, the authors suggest that governments expand air quality monitoring, compare outcomes for different pollution-reduction strategies and further analyze the health effects of airborne particulates.

In addition to protecting developing brains, reducing combustion-related air pollution would also decrease the production of greenhouse gases tied to climate change, the authors write.