It is becoming increasingly clear how dire the impact of pollution can be on humans.
In a study published this month in the British Journal of Psychiatry, researchers announced unfortunate new findings: Even small increases in exposure to air pollution significantly escalate people’s risk of having a severe mental illness and requiring treatment.
“Growing evidence suggests that air pollution exposure may adversely affect the brain and increase risk for psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and depression,” the study authors wrote, adding that bad air in residential areas is “associated with increased mental health service use among people recently diagnosed with psychotic and mood disorders.”
While directly proving causality would be extremely difficult and require experimental science, the researchers believe their research adds to a growing number of studies showing that air pollution is, to say the very least, not good for the human psyche.
Indeed, previous studies have found that upwards of 30,000 Americans may be killed by air pollution yearly.
Researchers made the latest conclusion after analyzing data involving 13,000 London residents and discovering that even a seemingly slight increase in nitrogen dioxide exposure increased the risk of needing to be hospitalized by 18 percent.
“Even at low levels of air pollution, you can observe this kind of very important effect,” research leader Ioannis Bakolis of King’s College London told the Guardian. Although London’s air quality has improved in recent years, researchers say that no level of pollution is safe for the human body.
The answer to how society can fix the problem is simple — if easier said than done.
“[Interventions] to reduce air pollution exposure could improve mental health prognoses and reduce healthcare costs,” the researchers wrote, adding “little is known about the potential role of air pollution in severity and relapse following illness onset.”
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