Polluted air can cause a reduction of a person’s apparent education level and IQ
11/28/2018 // RJ Jhonson // Views

The effects of pollution goes beyond physical health – it affects even one’s intelligence. A recent study found that people exposed to high levels of pollution can experience decreases in mental performance equivalent to losing a year in your education.

The study was conducted in China, a country that currently has air pollution levels at least three times higher than the guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO). Considering that air pollution is a worldwide phenomenon, there is no doubt that these findings are relevant across other countries, too.

The authors of the study found that exposure to high levels of air pollution causes significant drops in test scores in both arithmetic and reading. In most people, the effect is like losing one year of education. The impact of air pollution is much worse on certain people.

According to the researchers, the effect is much worse in people older than 64 years old. Men and people with low education are also at risk of suffering from greater losses, equivalent to not just one, but several years of education.

Some experts link this effect to the oxidative stress and neuroinflammation, both of which are known causes of brain-related problems. Oxidative stress is linked to an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, while neuroinflammation is linked to an increased likelihood of depression.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The negative effects of air pollution

The effects of air pollution on the brain may not be as evident as its effects on your body and the risk of developing certain diseases. Exposure to high levels of air pollution damages the cells in your respiratory system. This puts both your lungs and your heart through heavy stress, forcing them to work harder to supply your body with the nutrients it needs to function and stay healthy. If you have an existing respiratory or cardiovascular illness, exposure to air pollution can aggravate your condition.


Long-term exposure is even more damaging, causing permanent negative effects on your lungs. It can speed up the aging of your respiratory system, limiting its capacity and function and making you more prone to conditions like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and even lung cancer. Understandably, people who are regularly exposed to air pollution are at a greater risk of succumbing to premature death than those who breathe clean air.

Air pollution affects everyone, but certain people can be more susceptible to its negative effects. As implied above, these people include those who have existing lung or heart conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), coronary artery disease, and congestive heart failure.

Age is also an important factor in one’s risk of suffering from the effects of air pollution. In particular, the elderly and people under the age of 14 are susceptible. Pregnant women are also at a greater risk than women who are not expecting. (Related: Study suggests air pollution is killing more Africans than HIV/AIDS.)

Finally, individuals whose job and other activities require them to spend plenty of time outside are at a greater risk than those who spend more time indoors. These include people who work outdoors and even athletes who spend a lot of time on outdoor physical activity. What this suggests is that even people who are physically fit are not spared from the negative effects of air pollution.

Discover how air pollutants affect your body at Pollution.news.

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