Background: There is increasing concern about the potential effects of traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) on the developing brain. The impact of TRAP exposure on childhood behavior is not fully understood because of limited epidemiologic studies.
Objective: We explored the association between early-life exposure to TRAP using a surrogate, elemental carbon attributed to traffic (ECAT), and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms at 7 years of age.
Methods: From the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS) birth cohort we collected data on exposure to ECAT during infancy and behavioral scores at 7 years of age. Children enrolled in CCAAPS had at least one atopic parent and a birth residence either < 400 m or > 1,500 m from a major highway. Children were followed from infancy through 7 years of age. ECAT exposure during the first year of life was estimated based on measurements from 27 air sampling sites and land use regression modeling. Parents completed the Behavioral Assessment System for Children, 2nd Edition, when the child was 7 years of age. ADHD-related symptoms were assessed using the Hyperactivity, Attention Problems, Aggression, Conduct Problems, and Atypicality subscales.
Results: Exposure to the highest tertile of ECAT during the child's first year of life was significantly associated with Hyperactivity T-scores in the "at risk" range at 7 years of age, after adjustment [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 1.7; 95% CI: 1.0, 2.7]. Stratification by maternal education revealed a stronger association in children whose mothers had higher education (aOR = 2.3; 95% CI: 1.3, 4.1).
Conclusions: ECAT exposure during infancy was associated with higher Hyperactivity scores in children; this association was limited to children whose mothers had more than a high school education.