According to new research, exposure to high levels of polluted air is equivalent to having lost a year of education. With over 95% of the global population breathing unsafe air, the damage to society goes far beyond the impacts on physical health.
Those over 64 years old, for men, and for those with low education had the worst damage in intelligence. This can result in serious consequences for the elderly because critical financial decisions must be made during this period of their life.
Other recent studies have linked air pollution to increased risk of dementia, an “extremely high mortality” in people with mental disorders, and mental illness in children. Also, it was recently found that air pollution particles can transfer from a mother to her placenta, and likely reaches the developing fetus.
In the current study, the researchers found the longer people were exposed to polluted air, the larger damage to intelligence, with language ability more harmed than mathematical ability. It is believed that these negative effects occur because high air pollution can potentially cause oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, and neurodegeneration of humans.
Actions to curb public health crisis
To curb this public health crisis, it’s imperative for governments to take concrete measures to reduce air pollution, likely benefiting human capital. Improvements in human capital, one of the most important forces of economic growth, will drastically improve the economy. Although air pollution is declining in China, it remains three times above World Health Organization (WHO) limits.
According to the WHO, 20 of the world’s most polluted cities are in developing countries. The results of this study indicate that the pollution seen in developing nations heavily effect the human capital needed to improve the quality of life for these areas. Governments of developing nations must take notice of the associated damage that results from polluted air and make concrete steps to improve the air quality.
[via The Guardian]