Breathing Polluted Air Is Like Losing a Year's Education

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A new study found pollution is dangerous for the brain ... especially if you're male.

I've got some bad news: Pollution may be making you stupid.

Researchers from Yale University in Connecticut, and Beijing Normal University and Peking University in China, found that people in China who lived next to lots of air pollution did significantly worse on math and verbal tests than those who didn't.

"The damage on the aging brain by air pollution likely imposes substantial health and economic costs, considering that cognitive functioning is critical for the elderly for both running daily errands and making high-stake decisions," write the researchers.

The results weren't even across demographics. The researchers found these groups may actually be losing more like a few years of education:

- Males
- Old people
- Low-income people

The longer people breathed dirty air, the more their intelligence declined.

“It is because high air pollution can potentially be associated with oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, and neurodegeneration of humans,” said Derrick Ho, a researcher at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

And you're not safe just because you don't live in a polluted Chinese city. The World Health Organization estimates 9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air.

“But there is no shortcut to solve this issue,” said Xi Chen, a Yale researcher who worked on the study. “Governments really need to take concrete measures to reduce air pollution. That may benefit human capital, which is one of the most important driving forces of economic growth."

"Human capital" aside, decreasing air pollution might benefit humans too.