Can polluted air drive people to the edge

High levels of air pollution can drive people to suicide

Published: Saturday 21 December 2019

People exposed to high levels of air pollution are more likely to be depressedm, even commit suicide, according to a new study. If average PM 2.5 levels are raised by 10 microgram per cubic metre (µg/m3) for a prolonged time, odds of being depressed increases 10 per cent.

The study by researchers in University College London was published in Environmental Health Perspectives. 

World Health Organization guidelines recommend fine particulate matter pollution should be kept under 10 µg/m3. Globally, PM 2.5 levels range from 114 and 97 µg/m3 in Delhi and Dhaka to 6 µg/m3 in Ottawa and Wellington.

The study found a connection between short-term changes in base particulate air pollution (PM 10) exposure and number of suicides. Suicide risks were higher when PM10 levels have been high over a three -day period than after less polluted periods.

Finest particles from polluted air can reach the brain through the bloodstream and nose. This can increase neuroinflammation, damage nerve cells and change stress hormone productions — linked to poor mental health.

Cutting global average exposure to PM 2.5 to 25 µg/m3 from 44 µg/m3 can reduce depression risks 15 per cent worldwide.

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