What are the Effects of Air Pollution on the Brain?
Have you ever felt lightheaded and dizzy after entering a freshly painted room?
Maybe, you even found yourself unable to focus the entire day. Well, it turns out that poor air quality can create more than just a dizzy spell. Multiple air quality studies suggest it also causes forgetfulness, concentration loss, and cognitive decline.
In fact, researchers have discovered possible links between Alzheimer’s disease and urban air pollution.
Today, we’re diving deep into how air pollution can affect your brain. More importantly, we’ll share tips on protecting yourself from poor air quality.
3 Ways Air Pollution Affects the Brain
Since the 1970s, outdoor air pollution has become a great concern all over the globe. Not only does it harm the environment, but it’s also harming our mental health.
So, what's the relationship between brain fog and smog?
#1 – Cognitive Function & Depression
An experiment on chess players discovered that high exposure to fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) is tied to a worse performance in a match. That’s because PM2.5 is so minuscule that it can pass through your body’s defenses. Once inside, it can cause major damage to your organs, including your brain.
Another air quality study shows that exposure to air pollution from traffic for at least 2 hours can alter how your brain functions. So much so that scientists observed a decline in brain connectivity. And this can lead to poor cognitive performance and depression.
#2 – Executive Function
Additional studies also found that breathing poor air quality can result in slower response time and lower accuracy. Not only that, but it can also cause poorer executive functions. And it’s not just adults who are experiencing the harms of long-term exposure to air pollution.
#3 – Air Pollution Impacts Children
According to the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, there’s a relationship between mental health and air pollution exposure in children. In the study, children who have been breathing in urban air pollutants since birth displayed symptoms of anxiety, depression, attention disorders, and developmental delays.
Worse yet, this starts before children are even born. During fetal development, air pollution also causes a variety of health issues. This is especially concerning since pregnant women are particularly vulnerable at that time.
5 Ways to Protect Your Brain from Air Pollution
While world leaders are still working on solutions to air pollution, you can take active steps today to protect yourself from the adverse effects of poor air quality. Here are 5 actionable tips to keep your brain safe:
#1 – Commute When Possible
Vehicles are one of the top sources of air pollution. As such, you can improve air quality in your area by taking the bus, train, or subway instead of driving to your destination. However, if commuting isn’t an option, you can close your car windows and recirculate the air to lessen exposure to traffic pollution.
#2 – Exercise when Air Quality Levels are Better
You’re risking your health when you exercise outdoors during unhealthy levels of air pollution. Instead, opt for an indoor workout or take a break until the air clears up during bad air days. Plus, make it a habit to check the Air Quality Index (AQI) levels first before doing outdoor activities.
#3 – Get an Air Purifier
Air purifiers filter indoor air, so there are fewer air pollutants circulating in your home. That said, look for air purifiers that can cover your home and have HEPA filters. If you don’t have the budget for an air purifier, you can build a DIY box fan purifier yourself too.
#4 – Automate Your Home
Air quality technology has advanced so much that you can also connect air quality monitors to Smart Home automations. That way, you can automatically trigger your home appliances to turn on or off during high levels of air pollution. For example, you can trigger your air purifier to turn on when your air quality monitor shows high levels of PM2.5.
#5 – Invest in an Air Quality Monitoring System
It’s crucial to know the quality of the air you’re breathing, so you can take appropriate actions to protect yourself from air pollution. As such, air quality monitors can tell you all you need to know about the air quality in your community. Even better, you can use its air quality data to start initiatives that improve your local air quality.
There’s no denying that air pollution and poor brain function are connected. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t protect yourself from the effects of poor air quality. By knowing the air quality in your home and neighborhood, you can take the first step in knowing your air quality.
Worried about your air quality?
Monitor the Particulate Matter levels around the world with our free, real-time PurpleAir Map or join PurpleAir's mission to make air quality data accessible to everyone by investing in an air quality monitor for your home.
Together, we can be informed and make changes in our daily habits and the community to improve air quality.