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Study suggests link between air pollution and childhood mental health

Umeå University in Sweden has released a report which associates neighbourhood air pollution with childhood mental health.
Researchers at the university compared data on dispensed medicines for a broad range of psychiatric disorders with data on air pollution concentrations in Sweden, and discovered that even a modest increment of air pollution showed a greater number of psychiatric problems.
“There may be a link between exposure to air pollution and dispensed medications for certain psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents even at the relatively low levels of air pollution in the study regions,” the study claimed.
The study showed that the risk of mental illness in children rose 9% per 10 microgram per cubic metre increased concentration of nitrogen dioxide gas, a product of vehicles using diesel fuel. The highest levels of nitrogen dioxide were found in Stockholm.
Anna Oudin, leader of the study and member of the university’s department of public health, said: “The results can mean that a decreased concentration of air pollution, first and foremost traffic-related air pollution, may reduce psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents.”
Mental disorders are experienced by 10-20% of all children and adolescents worldwide, and children are thought to be particularly vulnerable to air pollution due to the amount of active time they spend outside during development.
The study in Sweden is not the first to compare mental health with air pollution – previous research has linked autism with air pollution which is known to enter the brain and cause inflammation – but it is thought to be the first to look specifically at children.
“These findings should be corroborated by others,” the study concluded.