This is how rising air pollution is affecting your intelligence

Posted by
Susan Devaney
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A new study has found that air pollution is causing a “huge” reduction in our intelligence…

In recent months, talk has turned to plastic, pollution and our planet. From trying to reduce the amount of single-use plastic in our lives to cutting down our carbon emissions, one thing has come to the forefront: we need to make some crucial changes, not only for the planet but for our own health.

Now, a new study has found that not only is pollution detrimental to our physical health, but it’s also affecting our intelligence. Conducted in China, the research found that high levels of pollution led to a major decrease in test scores involving language and maths – with the average impact being the equivalent to losing a year’s worth of education.

“Polluted air can cause everyone to reduce their level of education by one year, which is huge,” said Xi Chen, a member of the research team from Yale School of Public Health in the US told the Guardian. “But we know the effect is worse for the elderly, especially those over 64, and for men, and for those with low education. If we calculate [the loss] for those, it may be a few years of education.”

91% of the planet’s population live in areas with dangerous levels of pollution and is now the fourth-highest cause of deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation.

The study took place over four years and analysed both verbal and arithmetic tests taken by 20,000 people of all ages. Unlike previous studies, this is the first to involve people of all ages, and both men and women.

The researchers found that the longer people were exposed to dirty air, the more their intelligence was damaged, with language ability more affected than mathematical ability, men more harmed than women and people over the age of 64 being impacted the most. 

Cycling to work is great way to help reduce air pollution 

Air pollution from NO2 causes around 23,500 early deaths every year in the UK. In London alone, more than one person an hour dies prematurely from a range of conditions such as asthma, emphysema and congestive heart failure caused by exposure to nitrogen dioxide in the air.

The study followed the same individuals from one year to the next, taking genetic differences and variations in air pollution levels in consideration, too.

But, the researchers stressed that there is no quick fix.

“There is no shortcut to solve this issue,” Chen said. “Governments really need to take concrete measures to reduce air pollution. That may benefit human capital, which is one of the most important driving forces of economic growth.”

However, one way in which people can help reduce air pollution is by actively planting more green spaces. By incorporating more plants in your own home or actively growing vegetables and such in your garden, trying to make the space around you greener is a small but important step.

You can read more here on why the government needs to tackle air pollution levels now.

Images: Unsplash