Try not to freak out, but all the pollution that is tainting our air isn't just causing lung problems, but could be making us dumber. The dangers of air pollution have only grown in recent decades and today, outdoor air pollution accounts for an estimated 4.2 million deaths. How air pollution affects our bodies, from asthma to lung cancer and a host of other physical ills has been well-documented, but its effect on the brain has been largely unknown.
A new study conducted by researchers from Beijing Normal University and the Yale School of public health is shedding some light on how air pollution affects the brain. In short, the results are not good and air pollution is killing our brain cells left and right. Considering that a large percentage of the population in developing countries is exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution on a daily basis, scores of people could be in jeopardy.
The study found that long-term exposure to air pollution had a negative impact on a person's cognitive abilities, as shown through both verbal and math tests. The study found this to especially true in men as they aged.
Researchers Xin Zhang, Xi Chen, and Xiaobo Zhang looked at a study group of 32,000 people. The researchers examined the relationship between verbal and math scores, calculating short and long-term air pollution exposure from air pollution index values. The results were disheartening and showed that males suffered the greatest decline in cognitive ability -- particularly those with less education.
Maintaining strong cognitive abilities is, of course, critical for people at every step of life, but particularly as people get older if they are to live independently. Cognitive decline places the elderly at greater risk for diseases such as alzheimer's or other types of dementia.
Reducing air pollution and the financial problems that come with it, is imperative for every country on Earth, especially India, which has six of the most polluted cities on the planet.
It should be noted though, that it's not just developing countries that are to bear the burden. First-world countries such as the United States must step up, set an example and put the pressure on. U.S. efforts to tighten air pollution regulation had a setback, however, when earlier in 2018 the Trump administration said it would move to loosen fuel efficiency standards. The EPA estimated that the move could result in 1,400 premature deaths over the next decade.
Maybe you live in Burlington, Vermont, Naples, Florida, or some other American city with pristine air and deadly air pollution isn't something to be concerned with. There was once a time when air pollution wasn't a concern for the people of Zabol, Iran either, but that's not the case any longer.
We shouldn't need any more reasons to push for strong regulations on fighting air pollution, but this study is just one more reason on an already lengthy list. Hopefully, smog hasn't killed so many brain cells that were incapable of solving this problem before it's too late.