A few weeks ago, I gave a Pecha Kucha presentation to an audience at the Lyric Theater, in Blacksburg, for the RIDE Solutions program I run (you can follow the link to YouTube and read the video description to learn what a Pecha Kucha is). During the course of the presentation I mentioned that air quality has been shown to affect not just heart and lung health, but brain health and development as well. I wanted to provide some more detail for that claim.
There’s actually an entire Wikipedia article on the subject that includes some good links, but essentially the affect on brain development can come primarily from a) long-term damage to the vascular system from exposure to pollutants, which can, in turn, affect blood flow to the brain, and b) exposure to heavy metals – particularly mercury and lead – which has shown to contribute to autism.
In many places in the U.S., including the Roanoke Valley, the latter is not likely to play as large an issue. Most of the Valley’s pollution comes from vehicle emissions, which are pretty clean of lead and mercury. Mercury is present, however, in emissions from coal-fired power plants, which is another major source for the region.
That said, there is an impact from living near heavily-trafficked and polluting transportation corridors. This Utne Reader article references a Boston study that showed kids living near a busy road performed more poorly on IQ and memory tests.