Studies Show that Breathing Polluted Air May Negatively Affect Human Intelligence

By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly nine out of 10 people globally breathe polluted air. New research also suggests that it can even reach an unborn child by moving from the mother’s lungs, to the placenta, and then to the fetus.

There are two sources of air pollution–natural and man-made.

Anthropogenic or man-made sources take form of emissions from factories, cars, planes, or aerosol cans. Second-hand cigarette smoke is also considered air pollution. However, smoke from wildfires or ash from volcanoes are also regarded as natural sources of air pollution.

Breathing in polluted air can take its toll on the public’s health. Short-term effects include pneumonia or bronchitis while long-term effects involve heart disease, lung cancer, and even severe respiratory diseases.

There’s also another impact of polluted air on human health that not many people are aware of: it also affects human intelligence.

Information from a research conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) along with people from the Xin Zhang of Beijing Normal University, and Xi Chen of Yale School of Public Health revealed that continued exposure to air pollution lowers human intelligence and its effects are more pronounced depending on the person’s age.

Younger people who are exposed to air pollution are more likely to experience short-term effects or a decline in their mathematics and verbal abilities. Meanwhile, those who have more years and a longer exposure are susceptible to Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Steps in reducing air pollution are being taken by lessening the use of chemicals as well as shifting from using carbon dioxide emitting vehicles and machines.

The effort involves the community as well as the government to help safeguard lives from the negative effects of breathing in polluted air.

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Patricia Bianca S. Taculao
Patricia Taculao, or Patty as she likes to be called, is a content producer for Manila Bulletin Digital Lifestyle. She graduated from University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. She loves to spend her free time, reading, painting, and watching old movies.

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