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Air Pollution Increases Psychotic Experiences among Teens

Girl holding sign

A recent study, published by JAMA Psychiatry, suggests that teenagers living in areas with poor air quality have a higher risk of experiencing psychosis, includes hearing voices and intense paranoia.

Scientists used data from a 2-decade long study of 2,232 children, born in 1994/95 living in England and Wales (UK).

The Study's Findings

What are Nitrogen Oxides

Nitrogen oxides are a group of 7 gases, with nitrogen dioxide being the most common and hazardous. These gases come largely from vehicle exhaust, but also diesel fuel, burning of coal, gas stoves, etc.

Long term exposure to these gases can trigger or exacerbate heart disease and lung cancer. While, Alzheimer's, autism, and intellectual disabilities have also been liked to prolonged exposure to nitrogen oxides.

What's worse, is that the United Kingdom is at illegal levels of nitrogen oxides in most British towns and cities.

Cars on the road

Who's Most Affect by Air Pollution

Young people and children are the most vulnerable to the impacts of air pollution because their brain and respiratory systems are still not fully developed.

And the effects of air pollution on children's physical and mental health will follow them into adulthood. Scientists suggest, children who have psychotic experiences while they are young are more likely to develop serious psychotic disorders like schizophrenia in adulthood.

Problem(s) with the Study

The result of the study are significant, but they don't conclusively prove that pollutants cause psychotic experiences. Instead, it suggests that air pollution could be a contributing factor.

Scientists agree that more work is needed to assess the impact, while also looking into other contributing factors of psychotic experiences, such as noise pollution and stress levels.

The UN predicts 2/3 of the global population will be living in a city by 2050, so it is crucial that we understand the effect of pollutants. Especially because the people most affected will be Young people and children.

The Solution

This study doesn't conclusively link psychotic experiences to air pollution, but it does contribute to the growing body of evidence suggesting that this is the case. It also argues that air pollution could have a significant negative impact on mental health, not just on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. These are all meaningful advancements in helping us fully understanding the impact of air pollution, but we also need political action.

Governments are not cutting pollution quickly enough and environmental targets are not being met. Democracy needs to retake its place above capitalism so that we can create a balance between people, profit, and the planet.

What You can Do:

  • Stay politically informed, ask for more environmental protection policies
  • Demand the right to clean air and water, as it is essential to life
  • Decrease your carbon footprint

    • Take transit
    • Ride a bike
    • Carpool
    • Go minimal/zero-waste
    • Stay away from products made with coal or single-use items

It may not be our fault that the world we have been given is the way it is, but, if we wish to live out the entirety of our lives healthy, it is our responsibility.

Someone standing on street with air pollution

“Even if it's not your fault, it's your responsibility.” ― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky