Can air pollution affect our intelligence?

Researchers for a joint Chinese-US study have explored the impact of air pollution on human intelligence.


The study, over four years, tested the maths and speaking aptitude of 20,000 Chinese people and the results suggest a link but are not yet conclusive.

The research focussed on measuring levels of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulates smaller than 10 micrometres in diameter in samples of air but did not identify which of these were the cause.

In addition, a correlation was identified that linked the impact of air pollution with more mature people.
Our findings about the damaging effect of air pollution on cognition, particularly on the aging brain, imply that the indirect effect on social welfare could be much larger than previously thought.

For older persons (in our study those age 55-65 or 65+) the effects can be very difficult to mitigate given the long term cumulative exposure

This is very worrisome as we all know that people often have to make important financial decisions in old age, such as when we should retire, which health insurance plan is better.

Xi Chen, co-author (Yale School of Public Health)


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