Air pollution linked with “huge” reduction in IQ

We have reported in recent times on studies linking air pollution to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and a variety of cognitive difficulties.  And, of course, it can kill you.  “Air pollution causes seven million premature deaths a year… A recent study found toxic air was linked to “extremely high mortality” in people with mental disorders and earlier work linked it to increased mental illness in children, while another analysis found those living near busy roads had an increased risk of dementia.”  A recent study even found that unborn babies are testing positive for chemical exposure stemming from air pollution.

Now, another disturbing report just came out linking the primary chemicals in air pollution to a significant reduction in IQ levels…

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Air pollution causes ‘huge’ reduction in intelligence, study reveals

Air pollution causes a “huge” reduction in intelligence, according to new research, indicating that the damage to society of toxic air is far deeper than the well-known impacts on physical health.

The research was conducted in China but is relevant across the world, with 95% of the global population breathing unsafe air. It found that high pollution levels led to significant drops in test scores in language and arithmetic, with the average impact equivalent to having lost a year of the person’s education…

Previous research has found that air pollution harms cognitive performance in students, but this is the first to examine people of all ages and the difference between men and women.

The damage in intelligence was worst for those over 64 years old, with serious consequences…

The new work, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, analysed language and arithmetic tests conducted as part of the China Family Panel Studies on 20,000 people across the nation between 2010 and 2014. The scientists compared the test results with records of nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide pollution…

They found the longer people were exposed to dirty air, the bigger the damage to intelligence, with language ability more harmed than mathematical ability and men more harmed than women. The researchers said this may result from differences in how male and female brains work

The study followed the same individuals as air pollution varied from one year to the next, meaning that many other possible causal factors such as genetic differences are automatically accounted for.

The scientists also accounted for the gradual decline in cognition seen as people age and ruled out people being more impatient or uncooperative during tests when pollution was high.



Journal referenceXin Zhang, Xi Chen, and Xiaobo Zhang, (2018). The impact of exposure to air pollution on cognitive performance, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (


You may also be interested in these latest studies linking the chemicals in air pollution to miscarriage and heart problems in offspring :

air air pollution climate change dawn

Report reveals link between air pollution and increased risk for miscarriage

Researchers found women living along the Wasatch Front — the most populous region in the state of Utah — had a higher risk (16 percent) of miscarriage following short-term exposure to elevated air pollution.

Dirty air now could harm hearts of offspring later

A parent’s exposure to dirty air before conception might spell heart trouble for the next generation…