Did you grow up in an urban environment? It may have cost you a few IQ points.
According to a new study out of the University of Montana, air pollution can lower children’s IQ and can have a negative impact on short-term memory.
This may be especially bad news for kids growing up in areas with consistent pollution problems, like Los Angeles, as the study shows that children with lifetime exposure to pollution above US standards are at higher risk of developing brain inflammation.
But don’t worry LA, you’re not alone. According to one study by the American Lung Association, nearly half of Americans live in an area that exceeds US pollution standards.
The study also noted the particularly poor pollution situation in Mexico City saying,”Metropolitan Mexico City is an example of extreme urban growth and serious environmental pollution, where 8 million children are involuntarily exposed to harmful concentrations of fine particulate matter in the air every day beginning at conception.”
The study additionally notes that those who carry a gene known as apolipoprotein ε4 allele are especially at risk as the gene itself is known to increase the risk of degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. When paired with pollution, well, you’re basically cognitively screwed.
“The results add to growing data suggesting ε4 carriers could have a higher risk of developing early Alzheimer’s disease if they reside in a polluted urban environment,” Dr. Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas, who lead the study, said in a statement.
So how long do we have until this problem turns into a really big problem? According to Calderón-Garcidueñas, about 50 years.
“We have a 50-year window of opportunity between the time urban children experience the detrimental effects we are describing here and when they will present with mild cognitive impairment and dementia,” Calderón-Garcidueñas said in a statement adding, “We need support for studying the current pediatric clinical and imaging evidence in highly exposed urban children. Our efforts should be aimed to identify and mitigate environmental factors influencing Alzheimer’s disease.”