Air pollution clouds brain performance and workforce productivity

November 17, 2021
air quality
mental health
physical health

A new study from researchers from The University of Queensland and Carnegie Mellon University suggests that even short-term exposure to air pollution impacts our brain performance and capacity to work.

The study found that exposure to moderately high levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) reduced all seven cognitive functions studied (memory, verbal ability, attention, flexibility, maths ability, speed and problem-solving) although memory was most negatively affected. The effects were greatest for people under the age of 50, while for those under 30 the decline was equal to that of ageing by 15 years.

The researchers noted that, while reducing air pollution relies primarily on governments tackling key sources such as vehicle emissions and forest fires, individuals can reduce their own exposure by staying indoors, using air filtration or moving to less polluted locations.