How air pollution directly affects our mental health

It is a scourge of which many French people are victims every year. As reported by Le Figaro, pollution causes about 50,000 deaths per year in France, including 40,000 due to exposure to fine particles. If the physical consequences related to pollution are already recognized by the health authorities, it is also at the origin of certain dysfunctions in our mental health. The daily points out that air pollution creates damage for both children and adults.

In young people, pollution directly affects their neurodevelopment, especially when the mother is exposed in the first trimester of pregnancy. Regular exposure to polluted air and fine particles can also lead to a higher risk of self-harm in children under 10 years of age. In adulthood, the consequences on mental health are an increased risk of developing dementia or Parkinson’s disease.

Exposure to fine particles with a diameter of less than 2.5μm (PM2.5) has also been shown to cause adults to develop a mood disorder of a depressive, bipolar, or even schizophrenic nature. During pollution peaks, scientists also see an increase in suicide attempts and psychiatric decompensation.

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Multiple damage to the brain

Contacted by Le Figaro, experts from Public Health France detail the effects of fine particles on our brain: “PM2.5 can destroy the entire blood-brain barrier or penetrate through the olfactory nerve into the brain”, as well as “through the gastrointestinal tract, leading to imbalances that affect diseases of the central nervous system”. In addition, air pollutants cause oxidative stress and reduce “the level of DNA methylation,” the scientists add.

Nevertheless, Franck Schürhoff, a psychiatrist at Henri-Mondor Hospital and professor at the University of Paris-Est Créteil, stresses on a daily basis that pollution alone is not enough to trigger this type of neuropsychiatric pathologies, which arise from interactions between susceptibility genes and environmental factors.

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