Air pollution exposure 'linked to depression and schizophrenia'

Grant Boone
August 22, 2019

New research adds to the ever-growing pile of data showing air pollution is hazardous to human health by linking exposure to small, inhalable particles with an increased risk of death.

Growing up in areas with high air pollution can result in a higher likelihood of developing depression or bipolar disorder in later life, according to new research. These neurological and psychiatric diseases-so pricey in both monetary and social terms-seem linked to the physical environment, notably air quality. Researchers have long suspected that genetic, neurochemical and environmental factors interact at different levels to affect the onset, severity and progression of these illnesses.

It suggests that the levels of PM set by air quality guidelines, including from the WHO and United Kingdom law, is not stringent enough to protect public health.

Researchers then compared the "geo-incidents" of claims to measurements of 87 potential air pollutants.

The researchers used a USA health insurance database of 151 million individuals with 11 years of inpatient and outpatient claims for neuropsychiatric diseases, and compared the geo-incidence of claims to measurements of 87 potential air pollutants from the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The second one consisted of all 1.4 million individuals born in Denmark from 1979 through 2002 who were alive and residing in Denmark on their tenth birthday.

Scientists have conducted the largest study yet into the impact that short-term exposure to air pollution has on death rates worldwide.

The findings have not been without controversy.

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Thefindings of the researched created controversy and resistance among reviewers.The divided opinions of the expert reviewers prompted PLOS Biology tocommission a special companion article from Prof. John Ioannidis of Stanford University (Ioannidis is unconnected with the study, but assisted the journal with the editorial process). The authors provide the strongest evidence yet that target air pollution levels are set too high'.

The significant associations between air pollution and psychiatric disorders discovered in the study do not necessarily mean causation, according to the researchers who said that further work is needed to assess whether any neuroinflammatory impacts of air pollution share common pathways with other stress-induced conditions.

SHORT REPORT: Khan A, Plana-Ripoll O, Antonsen S, Brandt J, Geels C, Landecker H, et al.

Researchers at Arhus University, Denmark, found that those living in areas with poor air quality before the age of 10 saw a 29% increase in mental health disorders.

There was no evidence of a threshold in the findings, meaning there is no level of air pollution that isn't unsafe. Global estimates were derived from each city's concentration-response curve through 2 generalized additive models with random-effects meta-analysis to test the association between mortality and air pollution.

This story has been published on: 2019-08-20.

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