Many of us have already known how polluted air can impact our health and well-being – such as our life expectancy, respiratory problems, child health, and health behaviors. However, little did we know that it can also impose serious consequences to our cognitive abilities, performance, as well as a decrease in human capital.
Most developing countries are faced with the problem of air pollution, as many of the people live in places with contaminated air. Exposures to dangerous pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO) and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) prevent proper blood flow and could affect the flow of oxygen to the brain, which in time, affect cognition. Long-term exposure of these pollutants can lead to lesions in the white matter, which is dangerous for cognitive skills. Impacts on the nervous system can lead to memory disturbance and fatigue, and in turn, impact productivity (1).
A recent study (2018) in China, conducted by researchers Xin Zhang, Xi Chen and Xiaobo Zhang examined how long-term exposure to air pollution impedes cognitive performances of individuals, in verbal and math tests. The study documented the link by matching a nationally representative longitudinal survey and air quality data in China according to the exact time and geographic locations of the cognitive tests of these same individuals, over time.
The study shows that air pollution impairs verbal tests, and impede cognitive ability as people get older, especially for less educated men. Cognitive decline or impairment, as we all know, is one of the risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia for elderly people. Since most senior citizens have to make a number of complex high-stake economic decisions - for example, purchasing health insurance and retirement planning - the damage on the aging brain and a decay in cognitive ability inflicted by air pollution will likely impair the quality of these important decisions(2).
Wearing face masks is one of the ways to manage the exposure of these dangerous pollutants. However, there are not many varieties of face masks in the market that are capable of protecting people against them. Look for an N95 mask, as it can absorb most of the PM2.5 in the polluted air.
Check out our Medical Consumables Solutions to know more about our N95 masks.