How does air quality affect your brain?

One of the first things people tend to do when they feel tired or overwhelmed is to go outside and get some fresh air. Others open a window to aerate their living spaces while cleaning their indoor spaces with chemicals, painting, or cooking.

There are drawbacks to opening windows

Unfortunately, opening windows may let germs and smells out, but it may let pollution in. Science Daily reported that outdoor air pollution can eventually affect pollution indoors. Fireworks, fires, and even winter weather can affect how polluted the inside of your home gets. 

Along with letting in any smoke, emissions from vehicles, or even local factories (if this is applicable to you), ventilation can actively spread pollutant particles around the space more easily and make it easier for people indoors to expose themselves to a pollutant’s negative health effects. It can take a while for indoor spaces to clear themselves of any harmful pollutants.

What studies say about air and our brains

Not all pollution is made equal. Noxious gasses, emissions, and smoke aren’t desirable, but particulate matter (PM), or microscopic substances floating in the air are seen as a bigger problem for our brains. We still need more definitive answers to how these PM’s affect us, but we know that pollution irritates our lungs.

More and more research is being conducted of the adverse effects of air pollution and the brain. Scientists are still studying the effects of small particles of pollution and testing whether or not they may be linked to conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, and other degenerative brain issues but research to support the link is growing.

Studies in mice did definitely show differences between mice who breathed polluted air and clean air. Scientists believe that pollution may cause inflammation that then overwhelms the body and is seen in people who have neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia.

Inflammation is not a bad thing; however. In fact, this process can help us stay healthy. Our body becomes inflamed when it detects disease or infection. As our immune system works overtime to heal, it causes our bodies to become inflamed. Small pollution particles may trigger an immune response as our bodies detect a foreign substances.

Because of current and past studies on air pollution and our brains, scientists believe that up to 20% of dementia cases may be caused by pollution.   

Take care of your health

Getting rid of indoor air pollution isn’t easy. Many buildings are next to factories, businesses, and other facilities that emit harmful gasses. Even in the best of circumstances, people looking to stay away from pollution may find that pollution actually comes to them via air ducts, poor ventilation systems, and even landscape or construction work that uses equipment that release fumes.

Studies have made a connection between young mice exposed to polluted air and changes in behaviour the mimic autism in humans. Air pollution has also piqued the interest of the World Health Organization (WHO). 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect us, now is a great time to examine how to decrease the impact of indoor air pollution and understand how to take care of our health. Fighting for clean air benefits us all and may even prevent future strain on the NHS in the future.

Now is the time to take every possible to step to breathe fresh air, learn more about the impact of pollution on our brains, and take control of our health in the years to come.