Is pollution damaging your brain?

The latest research shows a scary link between high levels of air pollution and a reduction in brain size. Yes, your brain may be shrinking because of the air you’re breathing.

This comes from a study conducted on 943 patients, published the May 2015 issue of Stroke. “On average participants who lived in more polluted areas had the brain volume of someone a year older than participants who lived in less polluted areas,” said Dr Sudha Seshadri, Professor of Neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine.

It gets worse over time. What’s more, the researchers found that air pollution increases your risk of serious brain injuries like stroke and dementia.

If that’s not enough reason to pay attention to air pollution, here are a few more not-so-fun  facts:

  • Pollution is a silent killer. The World Health Organization estimates that seven million premature deaths each year can be directly linked to air pollution.
  • According to the NRDC, more than 150 million Americans are exposed to high levels of dangerous smog in their home counties.
  • Pollutants like formaldehyde, ozone and particulate matter are major culprits of pollution in the United States.

Industrial emissions, the burning of fossil fuels, and the use of household and farming chemicals all contribute to the pollution problem. And they’re hurting animals and the environment just as much as they hurt the human population.

So what’s the answer? We all can’t just pack up and move to cleaner areas (you’d have to pry me away from Los Angeles, anyway). But the government, corporations and yes, us individuals need to clean up our act and find some real solutions to the pollution problem. This means better regulations, and lifestyle changes like buying local, organic foods and switching to cleaner energy. There’s much more, and it’s not “convenient.” But for our brain’s sake, it’s worth it.