reports that this can affect more severely kids aged between 4 and 8 years old, while boys can also feel the effects significantly more, since their brains mature slower. The findings belong to scientists at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal).

The study aims to complete other research done previously, which suggested that exposure to pollution during pregnancy and childhood negatively affects brain development.

To conduct this recent study, 1.700 pregnant women and their children in four Spanish regions were examined, as researchers estimated the average NO2 levels they were exposed to during the pregnancies, as well as the first 6 years of childhood.

The findings revealed that children aged between 4-6 years old that have been exposed to higher levels of nitrogen dioxide have a shorter attention span and the pollutant starts to affect them more significantly at the age of 2.

Anne-Claire Binter, last author of the study and postdoctoral researcher at ISGlobal, said that "the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain responsible for executive functions, develops slowly and it is still maturing during pregnancy and childhood."

"In boys, the association between exposure to NO2 and attentional function may last longer because their brains mature more slowly, which could make them more vulnerable", she explains.

However, a previous study conducted by the same ISGlobal stated that, regarding prenatal exposure, it was girls that were more affected, suggesting that limiting the exposure to pollution in the first years of life can significantly reduce the chances of serious sickness.

“Even a small effect at the individual level from relatively low levels of exposure, as in this study, can have large consequences at the population level. Exposure to traffic-related air pollution is therefore a determinant of the health of future generations”, Binter added.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) estimates that annually, 1.200 children and teenagers are being killed by air pollution on the continent.