A study out of the Yale School of Public Health has found that consistent exposure to air pollution can lead to cognitive decline.
The study was based in China, a country which experiences air pollution so severe that people and children are forced to skip school and work and stay at home.
According to China Power, the nation had 1.1 million air-pollution-related deaths in 2015; paired with India, the two countries comprised half of the world’s total air pollution deaths that year.
According to Xi Chen, one of the authors of the study, “Polluted air can cause everyone to reduce their level of education by one year, which is huge.”
Another study conducted by the Health Effects Institute has found that as much as 95% of the global population is already breathing unsafe air.
The study from Yale found that consistent exposure to high pollution levels results in significant drops in test scores in both language and arithmetic.
Those over the age of 64 are particularly vulnerable.
“It is because high air pollution can potentially be associated with oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, and neurodegeneration of humans.” — Derrick Ho, Hong Kong Polytechnic University
In other studies, damage to one’s language ability was more severe than the damage to mathematical intelligence and men were more severely affected than women.
“But we know the effect is worse for the elderly, especially those over 64, and for men, and for those with low education. If we calculate [the loss] for those, it may be a few years of education.” — Chen
The study also discovered that while long-term effects are both measurable and severe, there is a high chance that there are significant short-term impacts on intelligence as well, raising concern for students and those who must perform on high-pollution days.
“But there is no shortcut to solve this issue. Governments really need to take concrete measures to reduce air pollution. That may benefit human capital, which is one of the most important driving forces of economic growth.” — Chen
Iron Triangle Press will continue to follow this story.