Nearly everyone knows that air pollution is bad for the environment and significantly affects a person’s health, but did you know that it also affects one’s mental health? According to research conducted in London, being constantly exposed to air pollution increases a person’s risk of mental issues. More specifically, small but regular increases of nitrogen dioxide exposure may be responsible for a 32% rise in anxiety and depression, among other common mental health problems that require community-based treatment. Around 18% of the 13,000 individuals involved in the research are susceptible to risks that could result in hospital admission.  Despite the fact that air pollution levels in London have decreased, the effects on one’s mental health are still noticeable. Even a minimal increase in nitrogen dioxide exposure can still lead to a rise in anxiety and depression among affected individuals. To come up with their findings, the researchers used the frequency of visits to nurses or doctors and hospital admissions as a basis for the severity of the problem. Although the research focused on London residents, researchers said the results are applicable to the majority of cities in developed countries. 

More health issues

Anxiety and depression are not the only mental problems that can develop from long exposure to air pollution. Here are other possible effects according to a British Journal of Psychiatry-published research:

  • Living and growing up in places with dirty air increases mental health risks. In certain cases, this has been known to result in a rise in suicides or suicide attempts.
  • Dementia can also develop if a person is constantly exposed to air pollution, particularly nitrogen dioxide. 
  • Increased exposure to air pollution may also affect a person’s intelligence level. 
  • A 2019 global review also indicated a possible severe effect of air pollution: it can damage all the organs in a person’s body.

The research monitored south London patients starting from the point that they first got in touch with mental health services. Additionally, air pollution in the patients’ homes was measured. According to the study, the average levels of nitrogen oxides were determined to vary between 18 and 96 micrograms per cubic meter. Patients who were exposed to higher pollution levels (i.e. over 15 micrograms per cubic meter) had an 18% risk of hospital admission while a higher risk of 32% may need outpatient treatment in a year’s time.

An important finding highlighted in the research is the role that NO2 plays in the mental health and air pollution connection. Nitrogen dioxide emissions from diesel vehicles are responsible for small particle pollution, which in turn is a result of the burning of fossil fuels. Its link to mental health issues is stronger than other air pollutants. 

Air pollutants affect a person’s mental health because of their powerful inflammatory properties. Researchers said that mood and psychotic disorders are typically caused by inflammation. More than anything else, however, what the study proves is that toxins hovering in the air can affect the state of a person’s mind. 

To address mental health-related issues allegedly caused by air pollution, researchers indicated that ensuring lesser small particle exposure, even for just a small portion of the United Kingdom’s urban population, should be prioritized. 

The research findings are essential in encouraging action on mental health problems and improving related services.  Additionally, they can be used to address issues related to the diesel emissions scandal that first came to light in 2015 with the beginning of the Volkswagen Dieselgate case. 

Air pollution and the Dieselgate scandal

The Dieselgate scandal first broke out in 2015 when German automaker Volkswagen was found to have installed defeat devices in their diesel vehicles to cheat on emissions tests results. VW’s cheat devices reflected safe levels of nitrogen oxides emitted during tests but in reality, they released NOx emission levels way above the legal limits during real-world driving conditions.

After Volkswagen, more car manufacturers were and continue to be implicated in the scandal. Some of these car manufacturers include BMW, Porsche, Audi, Vauxhall, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Ford. Over the years, they have been paying fines and claims to authorities and affected customers. 

Car owners felt betrayed because they were led to believe that they were buying a clean and environment-friendly vehicle. In reality, they were contributing to the increase in air pollution by releasing dangerous NOx emissions. Every time these car owners drove an affected vehicle, they contributed to the rise in respiratory ailments, mental health issues, and other health-related problems.

Volkswagen and the other automakers have also been recalling the affected vehicles so these can be equipped with EU regulations compliant engines. 

What to do

If you are one of the affected car owners, you can verify if your vehicle is on the list by visiting your manufacturer’s website. If it is listed, you have the right to file a diesel compensation claim. Find a solicitor or a team of emissions experts that can help you go through the process. It can be a long and tedious procedure, but with the right team, you can get back what your manufacturer owes you.

Get the best support, service, and assistance from the emission compensation experts at Emissions.co.uk. They have a panel of diesel emissions solicitors whose experience can help you file a successful claim.

Disclaimer: The statements, opinions, and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of Credihealth and the editor(s). 

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