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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Breathing Polluted Air in Childhood Affects Mental Health

The World Health Organization estimates that 9 out of 10 people worldwide are exposed to high levels of outdoor air pollutants.

High levels of air pollution during childhood is linked to mental health problems in adulthood, starting at age 18. This was published on April 28 in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open. Members of Duke University (USA) conducted the analysis. The research found higher rates of mental illness among people exposed during childhood and adolescence to traffic-related air pollutants, particularly nitrogen oxides.

The link between exposure to air pollution and symptoms of mental illness in young adults is “modest”. The study’s lead author, Aaron Reuben, a graduate student in clinical psychology at Duke University. Reuben said harmful exposures of this type are so widespread around the world. Outdoor air pollutants could contribute significantly to the global burden of psychiatric illness.”

The WHO said high levels of outdoor air pollutants are emitted during the combustion of fossil fuels in cars, trucks and power plants. And this occurs by many manufacturing, waste disposal, and industrial process. A previous research identified a link between air pollution and risk of specific mental disorders, including depression and anxiety. The study looked at changes in mental health, causing all forms of psychological distress and disorder.

A previous analysis found link of childhood air pollution exposure to the risk of psychotic experiences in adulthood. Helen Fisher, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, and co-author and principal investigator conducted the study.

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When the studies were combined, it shows an increase in hospital admissions for many psychiatric illnesses during days of “poor” air quality. Just like in China and India. The current report builds on previous findings, revealing “air pollution is probably a nonspecific risk factor for mental illness in general”.

The study subjects are a set of 2,000 twins born in England and Wales between 1994 and 1995. The researchers conducted the analysis for two decades. The authors found 22% of study participants had exposure to nitrogen oxides (NOx), a regulated gaseous pollutant. This exceeded WHO guidelines. Additionally, 84% of those exceeded the fine particulate limit (PM2.5), a regulated aerosol contaminant with suspended particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter.

Symptoms associated with 10 different psychiatric disorders have been found. Most of them are dependence on alcohol, cannabis or tobacco; attention deficit and conduct disorder; and major depression. Also, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorder; and symptoms of thought disorders related to psychosis are among these disorders.

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