Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2013 Aug 25;26(4):628-35. Epub 2014 Jan 25.
Institute of Environmental Health, Center for Public Health, Medical University Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
Objectives: WHO's Children's Environment and Health Action Plan for Europe (CEHAPE) focuses on improvements of indoor environments where children spend most of their time. To investigate the relationship between school indoor air pollutants and cognitive performance in elementary school children, a multidisciplinary study was planned in all-day schools in Austria.
Materials And Methods: In a cross-sectional study (LuKi study: Air and Children) indoor air pollutants were monitored in nine elementary all-day schools in urban and rural regions of Austria. In addition, school dust and suspended particulates (PM10, PM2.5) were measured, focusing on semivolatile compounds (e.g. phthalates, phosphororganic compounds [POC]). Health status and environmental conditions were determined by parents' questionnaire, cognitive function was measured by Standard Progressive Matrices (SPM).
Results: Overall, 596 children (6-8 years of age) were eligible for the study. Cognitive tests were performed in 436 children. Analysis showed significant correlations of tris(2-chlorethyl)-phosphate (TCEP) in PM10 and PM2.5 and school dust samples with cognitive performance. Cognitive performance decreased with increasing concentrations of TCEP. Furthermore, cognitive function decreased significantly with increasing CO2 levels.
Conclusions: POC are widely used as plasticizers, flame retardants and floor sealing. This is the first report of a correlation between TCEP in indoor air samples and impairment of cognitive performance in school children. As a precautionary measure, it is recommended to prohibit the use of toxic chemicals and those suspected of a toxic potential in children's environments such as schools.