How Air Pollution Impacts Mental Health
When it comes to our bodies, what we put in is what we get out. This applies to the quality of the food we eat, the amount of water we drink and even the air we breathe. While it has long been a well-known fact that our food and water consumption habits affect not only our physical but also our mental health, there is a strong link between the quality of our air and our mental health.
Studies show links between air pollution and mental illness
Air pollutants, according to the WHO, can cause serious neurocognitive effects ranging from behavioral problems to neurodegenerative disorders. Data from China published in 2018 showed that increases in airborne particulate matter concentration increase the likelihood of having a mental illness by 6.67%. Studies found that air pollutants, specifically particulate matter, induce inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain which can lead to depression.
A study at Ohio State University exposed mice to high levels of fine particulate air pollution five times a week, eight hours a day, to mimic the exposure a human commuter might receive in a smoggy city. After 10 months, researchers found that the mice exposed to polluted air took longer to learn a maze task and made more mistakes than mice that had not breathed in the pollution. Additionally, the pollutant-exposed mice showed signs of depression, like giving up during swim tests and losing interest in sugar water. What’s more, the mice exposed to polluted air suffered physical changes to the nerve cells in their hippocampus, with fewer spines present on the tips of their neurons.
These findings are especially relevant to those who live in areas with high levels of air pollution, as the quality of outdoor air inevitably impacts the quality of indoor air. The American Lung Association ranks Bakersfield, Fresno, Visalia, San Francisco and Los Angeles, California as the top 5 most polluted cities in the country by year-round particle pollution. Even in cities with lower levels of air pollution, indoor air quality is still a problem for those who spend a lot of time cooking in poorly ventilated areas or use HVAC systems to heat or cool their homes and workplaces.
Air purifiers improve indoor air quality
Air purifiers are extremely important in homes, workplaces and other enclosed indoor spaces because they can filter out harmful pollutants that otherwise could cause adverse effects to physical health, mental health and memory. Use an air purifier in bedrooms, living rooms, offices, gyms and small businesses to lower the impact of harmful air pollutants.
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