Why Air Pollution is Bad For the Brain Too

When one thinks of health issues related to pollution, problems involving the respiratory system likely come to mind. But suppose aerial pollutants could also harm the brain? According to a recent study, among children this may be the case. 

The First of Its Kind 

This report was published by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and appeared in the Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives. In short, the authors identified a possible connection between short-term pollutant exposure and a worsening of symptoms of psychiatric disorders. The study noted that the mental health issues related to pollution were especially pronounced in subjects residing in “disadvantaged neighborhoods.” 

In a press release detailing the report, study co-author Cole Brokamp noted that his team’s work broke new ground in unearthing a connection between pollution and childhood mental health issues. “This study is the first to show an association between daily outdoor air pollution levels and increased symptoms of psychiatric disorders, like anxiety and suicidality, in children,” stated Brokamp. 

The study authors contend that their research could prove useful for safeguarding children from the effects of pollution. However, additional studies will be necessary to reinforce the report’s conclusions. “More research is needed to confirm these findings, but it could lead to new prevention strategies for children experiencing symptoms related to a psychiatric disorder. The fact that children living in high poverty neighborhoods experienced greater health effects of air pollution could mean that pollutant and neighborhood stressors can have synergistic effects on psychiatric symptom severity and frequency.”

Additional Evidence 

Previous research published prior to this study has covered similar terrain. One such study, published in the Journal of Environmental Research, examined the impact of high traffic related air pollution on young children. Specifically, this report noted that being exposed to such pollutants at a young age appeared to lead to an increase in self-reported depression and anxiety symptoms.

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