All being well, children are physically more active than adults and children are growing. So you’d think that good air quality is even more important for children than it is for adults. But what do we see? The majority of our children grow up in increasingly polluted cities and poorly ventilated homes and schools!

A group of medical and geographical/economic scientists at Umeå University in Sweden compared the medicinal treatment of psychiatric disorders among practically the entire urban population under 18 with the degree to which the group would have been exposed to polluted air, based on their location, over a period of 3.5 years. The study revealed a linear impact: the more polluted the air, the higher the rate of dispensed medications for autism, depression, ADHD etc. among children and adolescents. Other research also demonstrates the impact of polluted air on the central nervous system. This study in Spain, for example, convincingly links a decline in educational performance to air pollution in the vicinity of schools.

Convincing statistical and linear evidence in a very general sense

While the evidence is statistical, so much other research has since reached similar findings that it is most certainly relevant. The researchers themselves conclude the following:

There may be a link between exposure to air pollution and dispensed medications for certain psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents even at the relatively low levels of air pollution in the study regions. The findings should be corroborated by others.

The fact that this study concerned relatively low levels of air pollution makes it even more significant; in many cities around the world the air quality is very much poorer than it is in Sweden. A very new message, however, is that air quality can apparently cause early permanent damage to people only just starting out in life. The research does not indicate a possible relation between the degree of air pollution and the severity of the psychiatric disorder. This calls for further research.

sweden map

The significance of greening is evident

Nobody, not even the local authorities, is capable of rapidly bringing about sustainable improvement of air quality in a particular area. That demands cooperation, new legislation and contract tenders, building modifications and sometimes even European measures. Something any school, care institution or anyone living near a motorway can do straight away is plant greenery. Plants can actively and demonstrably help purify both indoor and outdoor air and do so from the day of purchase. Why isn’t awareness of this raised more widely? There is no more denying the permanent damage air pollution can cause.