Health

Air Pollution Effects: Longtime Exposure Harms Cognitive Performance

A new study claims air pollution isn't just bad for your lungs but even for your brain

A lot of health studies have been conducted before to find out air pollution effects on health. Well, a new study claims air pollution isn’t just bad for your lungs but even for your brain.

According to a study conducted by researchers based in China and the United States, chronic exposure to air pollution impedes cognitive performance in verbal and math tests. The effect, in fact, gets worse as people age, with an especially strong effect on seniors, men and the less educated who work outside more often and are exposed to higher levels of pollution.

For the purpose of the study, the researchers examined data from a national survey that was conducted in 162 random counties throughout China between 2010 and 2014 and compared these results with official air quality data. They used multiple years of data to check how particularly polluted times affected verbal and math test scores.

It was found that air pollution takes a bigger toll on verbal test scores than on math scores, though it has an effect on both. The cognitive impact of cumulative exposure among the test takers was more on older men. The results were troubling as cognitive decline and impairment are risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

“People are having trouble with, for example, not focusing on their tasks or there’s some chemistry that changes their brain and disturbs the functioning,” said study co-author Xi Chen, who is a professor of health policy and economics at the Yale School of Public Health. “We can say that the bigger impact is toward the older adults.”

However, the study did not prove a direct cause and effect relationship between pollution and lower test scores.

The new study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

Caroline Finnegan

A professionnal journalist for the past ten years, I cover global news and economic affairs for The Chief Observer.

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