Inequalities in exposure to ambient air neurotoxicants and disparities in markers of neurodevelopment in children by maternal nativity status

Faven Araya, Jeanette A. Stingone, Luz Claudio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Exposure levels to environmental pollutants vary significantly among different populations. These inequities in exposure to hazardous air pollutants (HAP) among different populations can contribute to disparities in neurodevelopmental outcomes. The aim of this study was to determine if exposure to HAP varies by maternal nativity status, a demographic marker often overlooked in the study of health disparities. We also assessed if those inequalities in exposure levels are associated with neurodevelopmental measures in young children. To do this, we obtained data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth cohort (ECLS-B), a nationally representative sample of children born in the U.S. in the year 2001 (N = 4750). Bayley’s Short Form-Research Edition (BSF-R) was used to measure cognitive development at 2 years of age. Using residential location at nine months of age, participants were assigned exposures to ten HAPs identified as potentially neurotoxic. Linear regression models were used to assess the joint effect of maternal nativity status and HAP exposure on neurodevelopment. Results showed inequities in exposure levels to ten different HAPs among the populations, as approximately 32% of children of foreign-born mothers were exposed to high levels of HAPs, compared to 21% of children born to U.S.-born mothers. Adjusting for socioeconomic factors, both isophorone exposure (a marker of industrial pollution) (−0.04, 95% CI,-0.12, 0.04) and maternal nativity status (−0.17, 95% CI, −0.27, −0.06) were independently associated with lower standardized BSF-R mental scores in children. Interaction between nativity status and isophorone was not statistically significant, but the change in mental scores associated with isophorone exposure was greater in children of foreign-born mothers compared to children of U.S.born mothers (−0.12, vs. −0.03, p = 0.2). In conclusion, exposure to HAPs within the highest quartile was more commonly found among children of foreign-born mothers as compared to children of US-born mothers, indicating inequities in pollutant exposure by nativity status within urban populations. Exposures associated with nativity status may negatively contribute to children’s neurodevelopment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7512
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number14
StatePublished - 2 Jul 2021


  • Air pollution
  • Child development
  • Disparities
  • Maternal
  • Nativity
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Neurotoxins


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