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Exposure to air pollution can harm cognitive intelligence

According to a new US-Chinese study of 20,000 people of both sexes in China, chronic exposure to air pollution may affect cognitive performance  Tweet This!.

The study, which included researchers from Beijing’s Peking University and Yale University in the US, involved measurements of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulates smaller than 10 micrometres in diameter where participants lived.

Over a period of four years, the maths and verbal skills of the study’s participants were monitored and the negative effects of air pollution on cognitive performance were found to increase as people aged, especially for men and the less educated. In addition, this new, detailed study suggests that pollution also increases the risk of degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. As over 80 percent of the world’s urban population breaths polluted air, the study’s results have global relevance, researchers said.

Air pollution around the globe – facts and figures

  • Approximately seven million people die prematurely every year from exposure to polluted air. Air pollution, is often referred to as an invisible killer.
  • In 2016, air pollution caused 4.2 million premature deaths globally.
  • 91 percent of global population lives in places where WHO air quality guidelines levels are not met.
  • 14 Indian cities are among the 20 most polluted cities globally.
  • Nine out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air.

“Our findings about the damaging effect of air pollution on cognition, particularly on the aging brain, imply that the indirect effect on social welfare could be much larger than previously thought,” researchers concluded. “For older persons (in our study those age 55-65 or 65+) the effects can be very difficult to mitigate given the long term cumulative exposure.”

 

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References:

This article is based on published information by BBC News. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the publication’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original please revert to the following links:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45326598

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2018/08/21/1809474115

http://www.who.int/news-room/air-pollution

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