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Air Quality

Published on April 7th, 2019 | by Cynthia Shahan


Uncovering The Mechanisms Linking Air Pollution To Psychosis

April 7th, 2019 by  

Let’s start with just a few adjectives about our daily lives — overexposed, overwhelmed, stimulated, toxic, deficient. It’s not enough that many young people lack good nutrition, but they are also challenged by circumstance by a lack of clean air to breathe and pure water to drink.

I remember a news story I heard as a young woman that molded my fears of chemicals for years, chemicals out of balance or mixed with the wrong toxins. The news reported a woman who came home from her hair dying appointment, cleaned her bathroom, and promptly died. The combination of chemicals freshly placed in her hair disagreed rather harshly in her body with whatever toxic chemicals she was using to clean the tile, mildew, bath, toilet, or floor. This was decades ago. Products may have improved. Still, I have never dyed my hair.

All of these chemicals churning in our systems through daily exposure create hard work for the liver and lungs and affect every vital organ in the body. How could they not affect the brain?

That incredible organ that serves the nervous system is affected as well by the hyper-stimulated nervous system. Throw some more chemicals and toxic inhalants that way and of course you are going to find the natural balance upset. Upsetting balance in the brain can be dramatic at times — it is different but similar to a physical shift where the diabetic person sees rapid change in blood sugar.

Susan Scutti reports for CNN: “One of the most consistent findings over the past few decades has been a link between cities and psychosis,” Dr. Joanne Newbury, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at King’s College London, said Tuesday. “Children who are born and raised in urban versus rural settings are almost twice as likely to develop psychosis in adulthood.”

Some other experts weigh in that more needs to be done beyond this one study, which has many variables. This study alone is a good beginning, but there is a need for more studies, more in-depth work, and varied consideration of the link.

Regarding this initial study, the data came from more than 2,000 participants. All were born in England and Wales in 1994 and 1995. “Psychotic experiences were significantly more common among teens in the highest quartile of pollution exposure, even after the researchers accounted for factors that might also be linked to psychosis, such as cigarette smoking, cannabis dependence, and neighborhood crime levels.

“The teens exposed to top-quartile levels of nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter (PM2.5, fine inhalable particles derived from chemical smoke) had 71%, 72% and 45% greater odds, respectively, of psychotic experiences compared with those exposed to the lowest-quartile levels.”

Note that for now it is an association between air pollution and psychosis — not a clearly direct cause and effect relationship. Other factors such as noise pollution are possible in denser populated areas — which can lead to interrupted sleep or disruption of restfulness, concentration, and focus. Fisher also considers that it is possible the gases and particles are causing brain inflammation. Earlier research suggests inflammation may be linked to psychosis.

There simply needs to be more of this type of research. As they say, “Given that 70% of the world’s population will be urban by 2050, uncovering the mechanisms linking the urban environment to psychosis and developing preventive interventions constitute an urgent health priority.”

Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, wrote in an editorial published beside the study that “air pollution exposures are ubiquitous in urban environments,” yet they are “modifiable and can be reduced through rigorous regulatory action.”

“It is especially important to identify other factors that may potentially ameliorate the consequences of air pollution to protect human health,” said Kioumourtzoglou, who had no role in the new research. “These could be lifestyle, nutritional, or neighborhood-level factors.”

Related Stories:

Air Pollution Exposure During Fetal Development Linked With Brain Abnormalities & Cognitive Impairment In New Study

Air Pollution Has A Devastating Impact On Children’s Health

Air Pollution Exposure Linked To Cognitive Ability Reduction (Research)

Even Brief Increases In Exposure To PM2.5 Air Pollution Are Associated With Rise In Lung Infections Amongst Children

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About the Author

Cynthia Shahan started writing by doing research as a social cultural and sometimes medical anthropology thinker. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education. Eventually becoming an organic farmer, licensed AP, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)

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