Modern societies benefit from the growth industry and the invention of new technologies. However, a negative consequence of this growth and invention over the last 100 years has been the proliferation of air pollution and other environmental toxins.

Increasingly, researchers are finding a link between the incidence of intellectual and developmental disabilities in the population correlates to exposure to pollution. For example, Recent studies have discovered a link between ambient air pollution and increased risk of autism spectrum disorder.

Researchers analyzed the records of 129,436 children born in Vancouver, Canada from 2004 through 2009. The study also investigated air pollution data in the area over the same time period. The objective was to assess the level of air pollution exposure for pregnant woman living in the area.

What was discovered was that pregnant women living in Vancouver, who were exposed to the highest level of airborne, traffic-related pollutants; were more likely to give birth to children later diagnosed with autism.

Other research has utilized Epidemiological and animal studies in order to discover a connection between development and intellectual disabilities and air pollution. These studies suggest that air pollution may negatively affect the central nervous system (CNS) and contribute to CNS diseases. Traffic-related air pollution is a major contributor to global air pollution, and diesel exhaust (DE) is its most important component.

Animal studies conducted by researchers at The Ohio State University (OSU) explored the effects of polluted air on generations of mice.

In this study, mice breathed polluted air for about 30 hours a week. They were exposed to less particulate matter than what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set for daily air quality standards. Later, the mice were kept in normal air during mating. OSU researchers compared the offspring of the mice who had been exposed to polluted air to the offspring of mice that were never exposed to polluted air.

Surprisingly, researchers found ample evidence of harm to the offspring of mice that had routinely breathed dirty air prior to mating. This implies possible health risks for the children of people routinely exposed to highly polluted air, such as residents in many large cities.

Research suggests that young individuals are particularly susceptible to air pollution and that perinatal exposure may contribute to developmental disabilities and behavioral abnormalities.

On a similar note, researchers in Britain have linked intellectual disabilities among children to rising air pollution, stressing that exposure outdoor may impede cognitive development.

According to the study funded by Public Health England and published in the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, British children with intellectual disabilities are more likely than their peers to live in areas with high outdoor air pollution.

Types of Air Pollution:

Generally, air pollution is a combination of natural and man-made substances in the air. Air pollution is usually divided into two basic categories: outdoor and indoor air pollution.

Outdoor air pollution involves exposures that take place outside of a house or a building. Some examples include:

  • Fine particles produced by the burning of fossil fuels.
  • Noxious gases like sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, chemical vapors, etc.
  • Ground-level ozone and urban smog.
  • Smoke

Indoor air pollution involves exposures to particulates, carbon oxides, and other pollutants carried by indoor air or dust. Some examples include:

  • Gases (carbon monoxide, radon, etc.)
  • Household products and chemicals
  • Building materials (asbestos, formaldehyde, lead, etc.)
  • Outdoor indoor allergens (cockroach and mouse dropping, etc.)
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Mold and pollen
  • In some instances, outdoor air pollution can make its way indoors by way of open windows, doors, ventilation, etc.

Over the past decades, researchers have discovered numerous health effects which are associated with exposure to air pollution. Chiefly, among these effects are respiratory diseases (including asthma and changes in lung function), cardiovascular diseases, adverse pregnancy outcomes (such as preterm birth) as well as death.

Due to the increasing amount of research showing a strong correlation between air pollution and health effects, in 2013, the World Health Organization concluded that outdoor air pollution is carcinogen to humans.

How to Reduce Air Pollution Exposure:

Indoor air pollution is reduced by making sure that buildings are well-ventilated. They should be cleaned regularly in order to prevent the buildup of agents like dust and mold. Remove known air pollutants and or irritants whenever possible.

Outdoor air pollution exposure is reduced by regularly referring to the Air Quality Index (AQI). Individuals should try to avoid going outside on bad air days. In addition, avoid heavy traffic secondhand tobacco smoke.

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