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Air Pollution Now Strongly Linked to Mental Illness

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

air pollution linked to mental illness

Story at-a-glance -

  • A set of three studies by researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital highlighted the risks of air pollution to children’s mental health
  • Short-term exposure to air pollution was linked to increased utilization of the Cincinnati Children's emergency department for psychiatric issues, particularly for adjustment disorder and suicidality
  • Exposure to traffic-related air pollution was associated with generalized anxiety symptoms and increased myo-inositol, a marker of inflammation in the brain, in 12-year-olds
  • Exposure to traffic-related air pollution in early life and childhood was significantly associated with depression and anxiety symptoms in 12-year-olds

Worldwide, 93% of children live in areas with air pollution at levels above World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. Further, more than 1 in 4 deaths among children under 5 years is related to environmental risks, including air pollution.

When most people think about health risks linked to polluted air, respiratory issues come to mind and, indeed, in 2016 ambient (outside) and household air pollution contributed to respiratory tract infections that led to 543,000 deaths in children under 5. However, air pollution takes a toll on the whole body, contributing not only to physical risks but also mental health problems.


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