Other than being a leading cause of death worldwide, air pollution is now also a leading cause of severe brain damage, according to a new study which has linked air pollution to decreasing levels of intelligence on peoples of all age across the earth.
The study which was carried out in China and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found out that a prolonged exposure to polluted air damaged the cognition part of the brain. It also revealed that the effects of the damage worsened with age.
During the study, the researchers analyzed the results of verbal and arithmetic tests taken by at least 20,000 people of all gender, age, and who had been taken from across China. It is then that they observed there were significant falls in the scores with every subsequent tests taken. This was equated to losing a year’s worth of one’s education, and for the uneducated, the impact was seen to be worse.
Other than that, the impact of air pollution on senior citizens makes them more susceptible to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other various forms of dementia. It affects their quality of life as “the damage on the aging brain by air pollution likely imposes substantial health and economic costs, considering that cognitive functioning is critical for the elderly for both running daily errands and making high stake decisions,” the authors said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 91% of the population on earth lives in areas where air quality exceeds the set quality limits. This means billions of people on earth are at the risk of developing a cognition decline caused by air pollution. The effect on children will be an inability to carry out simple arithmetic and impaired verbal skills.
WHO further estimated that 8 million people die annually due to air pollution. Of these, 4.2 million die from outdoor exposure to polluted air while 3.8 million die from indoor exposure such as from cook stoves and fuels.
Developing countries were revealed to be the worst hit. That is because the top 20 most polluted cities in the world are all in these countries and, as such, represent the scale of air pollution across the world. The people in these countries, as a result, form the highest risk group of the impact of air pollution. A study carried out by researchers from the University of California and from the Stanford University revealed that if air pollution was reduced, even by just a little, the rate of child deaths would drop by 22% in Africa alone.
The report on air pollution comes at a time when environmental defenders and activists across the world are being murdered for calling out corrupt governments, companies, politicians and individuals hell-bent on making profit at the expense of the environment. When President Trump pulled the USA from the Paris Agreement on climate change it significantly weakened the agreement, but that notwithstanding, people should remain relentless in the fight against air pollution. If you don’t, you might escape mental degradation but your children may not be so lucky.