A world where our minds are polluted
Exposure to air pollution is not something we can control as individuals. For many of us, it is just an intrinsic aspect of where we live, work and socialise. But would you think more carefully about where you spend your time if you were fully aware of the effects of air pollution on your brain?
Air pollution is known to directly interact with our brain cells in the short term, altering the way they communicate with each other, particularly in the regions that control our emotions. This could partly explain why some people who are exposed to high levels of air pollution experience anxiety and depression.
However, research is now showing that air pollution also has long-term effects on the brain, with experts labelling it as one of the 12 modifiable risk factors for dementia. It is thought that air pollution causes inflammation in the brain, which leads to a cascade of events that include a build-up of the harmful protein linked to the diseases responsible for dementia. The main culprits behind this increased risk are traffic exhaust fumes, residential wood burning and high levels of nitrogen dioxide, which can be attributed to industrial emissions, gardening equipment, power plants, and construction and exhaust fumes.
Fighting back against air pollution
We don’t have to just sit back and resign ourselves to the fact that air pollution is part of our everyday lives; its impact on our bodies does not need to be a foregone conclusion.
There are measures we can adopt as individuals to try to reduce air pollution levels in our local areas, such as using public transport where possible, avoiding the use of wood and coal burning in the home, servicing any vehicles regularly and checking tyres frequently.
We can also take steps to avoid exposing ourselves to high levels of air pollution by minimising the time we spend in areas with high levels of traffic or other forms of pollutants and keeping the air at home clean with filter systems.