Air pollution in childhood linked to decline in cognitive ability, research suggests

The latest study adds to an already alarming body of knowledge revealing the wholesale chronic damage done by toxic air, writes Harry Cockburn

Tuesday 02 February 2021 19:35
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Plumes of smoke rise over the Firth of Forth in Scotland. Air pollution may damage almost every cell in the human body
Plumes of smoke rise over the Firth of Forth in Scotland. Air pollution may damage almost every cell in the human body

The impacts of air pollution are diverse, with research in recent years indicating respiratory issues are not the only adverse effects small particulate matter and airborne toxins can have on humans.

Air pollution has been linked to depression, dementia, sight loss, declining mental health, miscarriages and smaller babies in pregnant women, bladder cancer, brittle bones, fertility problems, damaged skin, as well as a range of pulmonary and cardiovascular conditions, including strokes, heart disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections. It has been suggested that air pollution damages every organ and practically every cell in the human body.

The problem is also alarmingly prevalent: Nine out of 10 people live in areas where pollutants in the air exceed WHO guideline limits, and air pollution is estimated to kill around seven million people around the world every year, though scientists have described this as “the tip of the iceberg”.

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