Sustainability is smart

Investing in sustainability is looking more and more like a smart move. A new study found that air pollution lowers people’s intelligence.

“Polluted air can cause everyone to reduce their level of education by one year, which is huge,” said Yale School of Public Health Professor Xi Chen, speaking to the Guardian.

Chen and Chinese scientists co-authored the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Given how more than 80 per cent of humanity breathes polluted air, it’s not an understatement to say the ramifications of the study are enormous. The study found that bad air harmed men more than women, and older people suffered more than the young. What’s more, the less educated experience greater deficiencies than the better schooled.

The most polluted countries were in some of the world’s poorest and most unstable countries, like Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, the BBC wrote. The researchers tested people aged 10 and older between 2010 and 2014 with math and vocabulary questions.

Hong Kong Polytechnic University Health Geographer Derrick Ho, who was not involved in the study, said the findings were important. Unfortunately, he added, he wasn’t surprised by them.

“It is because high air pollution can potentially be associated with oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, and neurodegeneration of humans,” he said.

The study illustrates how electric cars, congestion zone pricing, bicycling infrastructure and other measures should be pursued more aggressively. It also highlights a financial problem that could be looming in especially polluted regions.

“We all know that people often have to make important financial decisions in old age, such as when we should retire, which health insurance plan is better,” the study said.

Image credit: pangalactic gargleblaster and the heart of gold via Flickr

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