After studying the brains of Mexico City residents, toxicologist and neurologist Lilian Calderon-Garciduenas found that chronic air pollution can negatively affect a person’s olfactory system at a young age. Therefore, people may become more susceptible to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
The pollutant that most affects human health is particulate matter. And not big, but small.
There is also growing evidence that breathing polluted air can lead to mental illness. Studies show that tiny particles go directly to the human brain, bypassing the body’s filtering systems. In addition, such particles often contain metals.
Most of the research currently available is concerned with how environmental pollution causes mental health problems. Brain damage is particularly harmful and can lead to a number of neuropsychiatric disorders when exposed to pollution. In a recent review, 95% of studies show the effect of air pollution on changes in areas of the brain associated with emotions.
In a large study published in JAMA Psychiatry, experts found that long-term exposure to a combination of air pollutants (particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide) at even low levels increases the risk of depression and anxiety. Another recent study notes that children exposed to ozone have a sharper increase in depression symptoms during adolescence.
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