We’re Learning More About the Health Harms of Air Pollution

Inhaling polluted air causes physical and mental harms. We all know that air pollution hurts our lungs, but a new review of the science highlights evidence of more far reaching effects—including on our mental health.

This research synthesis shows that exposures to air pollution reduce self-reported happiness and life satisfaction and increase anxiety symptoms. Moreover, air pollution has been associated with reported increases in depression, schizophrenia, and autism. Breathing in polluted air may also increase risks of substance abuse, self-harm, and even suicide, especially among men. Just as worrying, it can reduce cognitive functioning and limit our quality of decision-making. Air pollution is also linked with more criminal behavior, both violent crimes like murder and assault, and property crimes like burglary and auto theft.

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