Air Pollution Damages Intelligence


The publication of new report The impact of exposure to air pollution on cognitive performance in the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ has made waves across the news in the UK in late August.

Language and arithmetic tests conducted on 20,000 people between 2010 and 2014 were analysed, and the study argues that air pollution impacts our cognitive abilities.

“Polluted air can cause everyone to reduce their level of education by one year, which is huge,” said Xi Chen at Yale School of Public Health in the US, a member of the research team. “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.”

Respiratory medicine registrar and member of the Doctors Against Diesel campaign Aarash Saleh was quoted in the Guardian: “This study adds to the concerning bank of evidence showing that exposure to air pollution can worsen our cognitive function. Road traffic is the biggest contributor to air pollution in residential areas and the government needs to act urgently to remove heavily-polluting vehicles from our roads.”

Dr Guddi Singh, another member of Doctors Against Diesel, argued, “As our knowledge of the link between air pollution and ill health grows, so does the weight of our responsibility towards those affected by it, especially the next generation. We won’t be able to tell them that we didn’t know, or that we didn’t have a solution. If we fail, it’ll be because we didn’t want to succeed.”

It is clear that air pollution is a public health crisis that the Government needs to do more to tackle. Join the Medact campaign Doctors Against Diesel in our work to protect the nations health. You can get involved by signing up to our mailing list or emailing [email protected]

You can see coverage of Doctors Against Diesel speaking about this issue in the news: