5 things you didn’t realise air pollution could impact

Can air pollution lead to depression? [Photo: Getty]
Can air pollution lead to depression? [Photo: Getty]

In case you haven’t noticed we’re in the midst of an air-pocalypse. As swathes of the UK are shrouded in wafts of filthy air, pollution has been somewhat off the scale.

Yesterday in London, the Government’s air-quality index hit 10, the highest level – the third time it has done so in the past 12 months. And you don’t have to be an environmental expert to realise that’s bad.

The cause? Researchers at King’s College London say that the cold and windless weather is preventing traffic emissions and other forms of pollution from dispersing. The result is a sort of smoggy blanket laying over the city, that while looks pretty good on Instagram, is actually playing havoc with the environment, and our health.

But while we all know that air pollution can exacerbate symptoms of asthma and other respiratory-related illnesses and diseases, there are some other lesser known impacts of living in a smoggy world.

Your ability to conceive

According to researchers in the USA, a new study has revealed that women who live in heavily-polluted areas, near busy roads have less chance of IVF being a success.

The results of the study, which compared the success rates of over 7,500 USA IVF patients with levels of pollution near their homes and their clinics, suggested that the higher the levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air, the lower the success of IVF – in some cases it cuts the success rate by up to a quarter.

A further study in mice suggests breathing high levels of ozone could also affect women’s ability to conceive. “We found that breathing ozone on the day of ovulation not only decreased progesterone levels in female mice, but also reduced the number of ovulated eggs,” explained Carla R. Caruso, M.D, a resident physician at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. “In addition, this acute exposure to ozone affected important brain and ovarian signalling events that are key for the ovulation process.”

But if you live on a busy road and are trying to conceive don’t panic just yet. As scientists are keen to point out that more needs to be done to ascertain exactly why higher levels of air pollution may be affecting fertility and IVF rates. And there are lots of other things you can do to give fertility in both men and women a boost.

Cycling in the smog [Photo: Getty]
Cycling in the smog [Photo: Getty]

Your IQ

Still smarting about that D you got in GCSE maths? Blame that busy road you lived on. Because a whole host of recent studies seems to suggest that pollution can affect intelligence. A Harvard School of Public Health study found that children between the ages of eight and 11 living and attending school in areas of Boston with higher levels of traffic pollutants scored an average of 3.7 points lower on IQ tests than children living in less polluted areas.

A more recent study published in the journal ‘Pediatrics’ shows a clear association between mothers’ exposure to high levels of environmental pollutants during pregnancy to a four-point drop in children’s IQ scores by the age of five.

Further research by Dr. Jordi Sunyer found that children who attended schools in polluted areas showed overall slower cognition in comparison to those who attended schools in areas with less traffic pollution.

Your skin

That hot gust of exhaust air in your face isn’t just bad for your health, its totally affecting your skin too. When pollution gets into your skin, it creates free radicals, highly unstable molecules that remove electrons from healthy skin cells leading to damage. Not only do free radicals increase inflammation and irritation which can trigger acne, rosacea and skin pigmentation, they also up the number of damaging enzymes in your skin which breaks down collagen and elastin which leading to saggy skin and wrinkes. Pollution basically speeds up the anti-ageing process of your skin. Yeah thanks pollution!

Want more proof? A 2010 German study found that women who spent years living near high-traffic roads had 20 percent more hyperpigmentation on their foreheads and cheeks than those living in more rural areas.

It’s not all bad news though, as you can counteract the effects of pollution by washing your skin thoroughly (a quick scrub ain’t gonna cut it), slapping on the barrier cream and loading up on topical antioxidants, particularly vitamin E.

London's landscape has been shrouded in smog of late [Photo: Getty]
London’s landscape has been shrouded in smog of late [Photo: Getty]

Your child’s development

Research from Mexico City, where smog levels are particularly high, has suggested a link between air pollution and brain changes and cognitive dysfunction in children. Research funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the US found that mums-to-be exposed to higher levels of air pollution during pregnancy were more likely to have children that exhibited symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Living near a busy road can have a negative impact on your health and wellbeing [Photo: Getty]
Living near a busy road can have a negative impact on your health and wellbeing [Photo: Getty]

Your mental health

Turns out air pollution could be having a detrimental effect on our mental as well as physical wellbeing. According to a recent study higher levels of air pollution could contribute to increased rates of mental health disorders in children and teenagers.

The research, published in the journal BMJ Open, found that relatively small increases in air pollution were associated with a significant increase in treated psychiatric problems.

Further studies have also suggested that air quality may also be linked to symptoms of depression. Canadian researchers reported a potential association between poor air quality and increased A&E visits for suicide attempts. While scientists in Korea have also found long-term exposure to high levels of pollutants in the air to be associated with increased levels of depressive symptoms among older adults in South Korea.

What have you been doing to escape the air pollution? Let us know @YahooStyleUK

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