Air Pollution Linked to Increased Mental Illness in Children


Air pollutants yield deadly effects not to only human’s physical but also psychological well-being. According to a newly published observational research, there are proven links between air pollution levels and children’s impairments of mentality.

Exposure to nitrogen dioxide tied to mental disorders in children

The study, which was first published in the peer-reviewed journal BMJ Open, were based on the findings of an operation system which followed over 550000 Swedish youths (aged 18 years or younger) in about 3.5 years for keeping records on their exposures to air pollutants. At the end of the period of observation, the system’s data was put into cross-reference with data from the Swedish National Register on dispensed psychiatric disorder medications which include usage of sedatives, sleeping pills, and anti-psychotic drugs. It had been found that kids whose exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – a major chemical compound forming air pollution – stand a significantly higher chance to be required to take a prescription for long-term mental illness. Surprisingly, the result of the research remains indifferent even when age, gender, and family history of each participant were taken into consideration.

To be exact, for every increase of approximately 10mcg/m3 of NO2, chances of children to develop mental illness raise 9%, even an increase of the same percentage in tiny particulates can lead to a 4% surge. Unfortunately, an annual air pollution level of 40mcg/m3 is considered as acceptable by the World Health Organization (WHO). The fact that the primary setting for the observation is Sweden serves as a more striking aspect of the study, considering the country itself has always had a good reputation for urban sustainability, especially in terms of quality of air.

While the study itself still lacks the information needed for the establishment of a causal and precise association between both parties, researchers suggested that the links do exist. It is of great importance for every individual not to take global pollution lightly.

Inhalation of pollutants associated with various mental problems

The Umea University’s findings might be the first to establish the official correlation between the prevalence of children’s mental illnesses and the rising level of air pollution. However, it is not the first to point out such links. A 2015 study led by Harvard researchers had found out inhalation of fine particular matters (such as pollutants) lead to increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression among over 71000 US women. Another Spanish study which followed almost 3000 children over the course of 1 year also suggested that those who lived in area with cleaner air displayed greater performance in terms of cognitive and memory skills. After several other studies, it is also strongly believed that prenatal exposure to air pollutions (motor vehicles, smoking, gas generation, etc.) can pose extreme negative effects on fetal brain growth. For many experts, air pollution is also seen as a potential factor for neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

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