pollution impact on intelligence

Living in a polluted area? It might cost you some IQ points

It is so common to hear or read news reports discussing the detrimental connection between physical health and pollution. Especially since the effects smog has on the environment is an issue that reportedly needs addressing in both developed and developing countries. However, did you know that CO2 emissions impact our intelligence as well as physical health?

A recent study conducted in China, led by Xin Zhang, Xi Chen, and Xiaobo Zhang - published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - shows that smog may impact our intelligence. Chen states that “Polluted air can cause everyone to reduce their level of education by one year, which is huge”. He continues on to reveal that someone above 64 years old with minimum education may lose several years of education.

To uncover their findings, the researchers studied 20,000 members of the China Family Panel Studies over the course of four years (2010-2014). The scientists examined the test results with exposure to nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide pollution in mind.

The researchers claim that factors such as how air pollution can change over the course of the year, and that each person is shaped by different genetics, were considered.

World Health Organization (WHO) claims that Gwalior in India is the world’s most polluted city, and there are six other cities from India listed in the top 10, whereas Bredkalen from Sweden reportedly has the least amount of CO2 emissions.

WHO declares that over seven million people die each year from air pollution (mostly people from Asia and Africa), which doesn’t mean that those living in large developed cities are breathing perfectly, fresh air - in 2016 BBC claimed that smog is killing around 40,000 people in the UK prematurely every year. However, several cities with high levels of pollution are working to improve their ecological footprint. For example, WHO is impressed with China’s recent action towards cleaning their air and they hope India follows suit!

Derrick Ho (Hong Kong Polytechnic University) says that air pollution may directly affect intelligence because it, “can potentially be associated with oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, and neurodegeneration of humans”. However, researchers are looking into ways for city goers living in polluted areas to help protect themselves from smog. For example, one recent study reveals that B-vitamins may help to prevent the toxic effects that pollution has on the human body. The scientists claim that future studies are needed to confirm their research, but they are making tremendous and remarkable progress in analysing measures to prevent the detrimental effects induced by CO2 emissions. 


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