Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic spurred a significant increase– twenty-five percent– in depression and anxiety worldwide.
But, one group has been particularly impacted by post-pandemic mental health struggles: adolescents.
One meta-analysis of over twenty-nine studies, which included more than eighty thousand children between the ages of four and seventeen, found that youth depression and anxiety have doubled.
So, researchers have shown a growing interest in the risk factors behind anxiety and depression among children.
One recent study, though, has looked past well-known early indicators– such as psychological risk factors, family relationships, and temperament– to analyze the impact of environmental factors like air pollution.
The work was led by researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati and specifically focused on a category of chemicals known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).
PBDEs were formerly used as flame retardants for various products ranging from furniture foam padding, rugs, and upholstery to appliances and computers.
But, it was found that early exposure to PBDEs during brain development may lead to reduced language skills, cognitive deficits, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
In turn, PBDEs were banned in the United States in 2004.