Researchers in the US and China have found that air pollution causes a huge reduction in intelligence.
The research, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said long-term exposure to air pollution affected people’s performance in verbal and math tests.
According to the research, the effects became pronounced in respondents as they aged.
“The damage on the ageing brain by air pollution likely imposes substantial health and economic costs, considering that cognitive functioning is critical for the elderly for both running daily errands and making decisions,” the paper read.
Researchers say they studied the skills of thousands of people in China for four years.
“Polluted air can cause everyone to reduce their level of education by one year, which is huge,” said Xi Chen at Yale School of Public Health in the US, a member of the research team.
“But we know the effect is worse for the elderly, especially those over 64, and for men, and for those with low education.
“If we calculate [the loss] for those, it may be a few years of education.”
The study also suggests that pollution increases the risk of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Described as an invisible killer, air pollution causes an estimated seven million premature deaths a year worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
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