One of the worst problems of our times is air pollution. Our transport and industries produce poisonous gases that all people, especially the ones in the city, have to breathe. Of course it is not healthy – scientists have found associations between air pollution and all kinds of diseases, including cancer.
Now scientists at the University of Edinburgh found that air pollution in childhood is linked to a decline in thinking skills in later life.
As you definitely know, air quality in cities is worse than in the countryside. However, we are moving to the giant cities looking for comfort and financial opportunities. Statistics are showing that more than half of the world’s population is living in urban areas now and these numbers are bound to get much worse in the future. Of course, air pollution that these people are suffering is going to affect their lives. Especially if they live in these polluted urban areas for a longer time.
Scientists tested the general intelligence of more than 500 people whose age was about 70, 76 and 79. They compared the results to tests they had when they were 11 years old. Scientists linked results of these tests with information about where the participants had lived their entire lives. Researchers looked at that data trying to estimate the level of pollution these people experienced in different stages of their lives. Of course, this study took other lifestyle factors into account, like smoking, wealth, etc. And yet the association between air pollution in childhood and cognitive performance in later life was still evident.
Scientists described the link between air pollution in childhood and worse cognitive change between the ages of 11 and 70 years as “small but detectable”. Dr Tom Russ, one of the authors of the study, said: “For the first time we have shown the effect that exposure to air pollution very early in life could have on the brain many decades later. This is the first step towards understanding the harmful effects of air pollution on the brain and could help reduce the risk of dementia for future generations”.
This study will be continued. It is actually part of a much wider study, researching the health of individuals who were born in 1936 and took part in the Scottish Mental Survey of 1947. It is more than likely that other negative consequences will be revealed relating to living in a polluted environment.
AIr pollution is going to hurt us all. More cases of cancer, more cases of Alzheimer’s, more respiratory diseases. Furthermore, the West population is already aging, which is going to create other age-related public health issues. We might be towards a big health crisis and cutting down on pollution is one way to mitigate that risk.
Source: University of Edinburgh