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Air pollution could be linked to lower intelligence

Air pollution may be lowering human intelligence

Growing confirmation that air pollution might be linked to reduced intelligence is being reported by the BBC. A link between ambient pollution and health problems is nothing new, anyone who has ridden a cycle in traffic without a face mask knows just had unpleasant air pollution can be. What makes this latest study stand out is the sheer size and detail of the US (Yale University) – China (Peking University) project. An estimated 20,000 people had their maths and verbal skills evaluated over four years.

The study also revealed that older adults are likely to experience the greatest problems and that men are more seriously affected than women. However it should be pointed out that this is a very complex area of study and that correlation not cause has been suggested. The long term cumulative affect also has to be taken into account. For example there may be a critical mass of toxicity or it may takes toxins a certain amount of time before they catalyze or  impact on cognitive performance in the human brain.

The latest data from the World Health Organization indicates just how serious a problem air pollution is.

  • 4.2 million deaths every year as a result of exposure to ambient (outdoor) air pollution
  • 91% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality exceeds WHO guideline limits
  • Air pollution accounts for (globally)
    • 25% of all deaths and disease from lung cancer
    • 17% of all deaths and disease from acute lower respiratory infection
    • 16% of all deaths from stroke
    • 15% of all deaths and disease from ischaemic heart disease
    • 8% of all deaths and disease from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Pollutants with the strongest evidence for public health concern, include particulate matter (PM), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2).

Source: World Health Organization

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