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Air pollution damages brain, impedes verbal and math cognition — study

/ 01:43 PM August 28, 2018

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A recent study by a research team from the Yale School of Public Health showed that exposure to air pollution impedes one’s cognitive ability as a person gets older.

Xin Zhang, Xi Chen, and Xiaobo Zhang — the researchers — aim to fill a gap in knowledge where air pollution and its effects to human health is concerned.

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While there have been numerous studies on air pollution’s effects on life expectancy, illness and hospitalizion, child health and health behavior, there is still a literature gap when it comes to its profound effect on cognitive abilities.

The team’s study was published on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America journal (PNAS) just last Aug. 27. The researchers made use of a nationally representative survey of Chinese families which showed their cognitive test scores on verbal and math aptitude. These were then matched with local quality data based on the exact dates and locations the interviews were conducted.

“We find that long-term exposure to air pollution impedes cognitive performance in verbal and math tests,” the study stated.

“We find that air pollution impairs verbal tests, and the effect becomes stronger as people age, especially for less educated men,” it read. “Cognitive decline or impairment are risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia for elderly persons.”

“Our findings about the damaging effect of air pollution on cognition, particularly on the aging brain, imply that the indirect effect on social welfare could be much larger than previously thought.”

As per the World Health Organization (WHO), the top 20 most polluted cities are all in developing countries, with over a 100,000 residents failing to meet WHO air quality guidelines. With this fact, the researchers hoped that their research findings on China — the largest developing country with severe air pollution — can shed light on the realities of air pollution in other developing countries.

The Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) declared air pollution as “a public health concern” last September 2017. As per DENR, a lot of non-communicable diseases have been linked to indoor and outdoor pollution, including heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. DENR also reported that about one in four deaths in the country are attributed to air pollution. JB

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TOPICS: air pollution, China, dementia, Developing countries, smog, smoke belching, Yale School of Public Health
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