It seems like nearly every week a new study is coming out to warn us of a new link between air pollution and various health problems. This week two new studies have revealed a link between air pollution from cars, general air pollution, and serious health problems.
A new study conducted by researchers in the United States and Denmark showed a connection between air pollution and an increased risk of mental health problems in people that spend their childhood in areas with high levels of air pollution.
When looking at the insurance data for 151 million individuals collected between 2003 and 2013 in the United States, researchers found that the rate for bipolar disorder was 27 percent higher for countries in the bottom seventh for air quality when compared with those in the top seventh with the best air quality. A less intense link was found between depression and air pollution.
When the team looked at similar data from over 1.4 million individuals from Denmark they found that the rate of four mental disorders – bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorder, and depression – were higher among people who had greater exposure to air pollution during childhood.
The bottom seventh that experienced the worst air quality had a 29 percent higher chance of developing bipolar disorder, a 148 percent higher chance of developing schizophrenia, a 51 percent higher rate of depression, and a 162 percent increased chance of developing a personality disorder.
Researchers say that there are a few reasons why air pollution could be triggering an increased rate of mental illness. One possible scenario is that air pollution can trigger inflammation in the respiratory tract that can lead to inflammation throughout the body, including the brain.
“While causation cannot be proved, this work suggests substantial morbidity from mental disorders could be avoided with improved air quality,” said Dr. Ioannis Bakolis, an expert in biostatistics from King’s College London.
Another study published this week in the Journal of Investigative Medicine has shown a connection between air pollution from automobiles and degenerative eye disease, age-related macular degeneration, or AMD.
AMD is one of the leading causes of irreversible vision loss in people over the age of 50.
According to the study, conducted by researchers from the China Medical University in Taiwan, high levels of exposure to vehicle-related pollution can double the risk of AMD.
Researchers found the link after observing nearly 40,000 people for 11 years, the majority of which were 50 years or older. At the start of the study, none of the participants suffered from AMD. At the end of the study 1,442 participants had developed AMD.
After the conclusion of the observation portion of the study, researchers found that individuals who were exposed to high levels of automobile-related air pollution had an 84 percent higher chance of developing AMD compared to those in places with low levels of exhausts.
These newest studies follow others from the past several weeks that have linked air pollution to shorter babies as well as thousands of additional deaths in the U.S. per year. The most recent study has concluded that breathing polluted air is the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes per day.