The World Health Organization reports that “nine out of ten people worldwide breathe polluted air.” In fact, their research shows that air pollution is responsible for a sizeable percentage of deaths caused by noncommunicable diseases, claiming responsibility for “over one-third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer, and chronic respiratory disease and one-quarter of deaths from ischemic heart disease.”
Unfortunately, recent research shows that air pollution may also affect the mental health of those exposed. Cole Brokamp, PhD and Patrick Ryan, PhD have been working in concert with Cincinnati Children’s Medical Hospital Center since 2011 to track the effects of air pollution in children.
The Air Pollution Study
Published in Environmental Health Perspectives on the 25th of September 2019, the study reveals that measurable increases in air pollution, namely particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), are noticeably correlated with an increase in visits to the psychiatric emergency department. These spikes in visits typically lasted two days.
On the initial day of the spike in PM2.5, the researchers noticed an increase in schizophrenic episodes; whereas, anxiety and suicidality were more common in the two days following the increase.
The researchers were careful to note the socioeconomic status of their subjects as part of their research to locate and measure the levels of pollution they were exposed to near their homes. The accumulated data showed that children living in poorer areas were typically more affected by air pollution, and their psychiatric episodes were usually more severe.
Both Brokamp and Ryan urge the scientific community to conduct further research into this possible correlation, especially as they strive to separate socioeconomic factors from the direct, medical effects of pollution on the mental health of children.
Reducing Your Risks
For both your physical and mental health, it is important to limit your exposure to air pollution, especially in urban areas where it can be difficult to avoid. However, the following suggestions provided by the National Center for Biotechnology Information can help you and the rest of your neighborhood.
If you require a pulmonologist in New York City, reach out to Dr. Shukla. Asthma treatment and treating chronic breathing problems in an urban environment is his specialty.
- Use an air purifier. Your home is where you can start to limit your exposure first. By using a central or portable air cleaning system, you can guarantee that your family’s exposure to harmful pollutants is at least limited in your own home. On days where pollution levels increase, keep everyone busy with fun, indoor activities.
- Reduce outdoor exposure. When you are outside, it is best to avoid microenvironments where pollution is likely higher due to proximity. Avoid taking your daily jog near roads or highways. Instead, go to your local park or go for a hike on the weekend away from major sources of pollution.
- Reduce your carbon footprint. It’s true that individual people are not the primary cause of global pollution, but together we can make a difference in our own areas. Set up a carpool and look for Energy Star approved products. Follow the instructions at the gas pump and avoid running machinery during the day. These little things can help you fractionally reduce the pollution you put into the air every day.
Taking Care of Your Family
Without major corporate and government policy changes, air pollution will continue to be a major health concern, especially for children and other vulnerable groups. Fortunately, pulmonologist Dr. Mayank Shukla takes your family through the necessary steps to ensure that you can all breathe easier.
With several locations in the New York Metropolitan area, Dr. Shukla’s commitment to empathetic treatment and the care of New York’s children have earned him both the Vital’s Compassionate Doctor Award and the Vital’s Patient Choice Award every year since 2009.
Whether your reaction to air pollution is presenting as allergies, sleeping problems, or asthma symptoms, Dr. Shukla will be able to treat the root cause while advising you on the best ways to avoid possible triggers.