Air pollution may cause reduction in intelligence, study finds

World Today

Air pollution may cause reduction in intelligence, study finds

A new study suggests that air pollution isn’t just affecting our bodies; it may also be harming our minds. CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg has more.

Researchers in China observed 20,000 people over the course of four years.

Their cognitive skills were tested, and logged. Then, those results were cross-referenced with pollution records, namely, nitrogen dioxide (from cars), and sulfur dioxide (the colorless gas typically emitted by power plants).

They concluded that the more a person is exposed to dirty air, the more their intelligence is negatively affected.

Language ability is more affected than math skills, they note. Men are more impacted than women, with older, less-educated males impacted the most.

There are also short-term effects. Taking a test on a heavily polluted day, they claim, could produce worse results.

Xi Chen, one of the authors of the study and an associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health, said that people can take measures – such as wearing face masks and using air filters – to combat the short-term effects of air pollution.

But he added that, when it comes combating the long-term effects, “that has to be done by the government.”

China is home to several of the world’s most polluted cities. But in recent years, the government has declared a ‘war on pollution’. Dirty air is on the decline, but in some cities, it’s still triple the recommended limits.

Premier Li Keqiang has described pollution as “nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development.”

But China is not alone, and the study’s authors are urging politicians in other developing countries – and indeed, around the globe – to take note.

The World Health Organization said more than 90 percent of people on this planet breathe bad air. That’s potentially billions of minds adversely affected.

WHO officials also said pollution accounts for 1 in every 9 deaths worldwide. The international body is holding its First Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health in Geneva later this year.

Xi Chen discusses the study he co-authored on air pollution and intelligence

To learn more about the effects of air pollution on intelligence, CGTN’s Elaine Reyes spoke with Xi Chen, one of the study’s authors and an assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health.