Sweden is starting to take air pollution seriously. A new paper, entitled “Association between neighbourhood air pollution concentrations and dispensed medication for psychiatric disorders in a large longitudinal cohort of Swedish children and adolescents” and published in the BMJ Open journal, examines the extent to which air pollution puts children at risk for developing mental illness.
Authors Anna Oudin, Lennart Bråbäck, Daniel Oudin Åström, Magnus Strömgren and Bertil Forsberg attest that “[t]he severe impact of child and adolescent mental health problems on society, together with the plausible and preventable association of exposure to air pollution, deserves special attention”.
Between 2007 and December 2010, the researchers, who hail from Umeå University, tracked 500 000 Swedes under the age of 18 across the most densely populated areas of the country, including Stockholm.
These young Swedes were living in diverse conditions in terms of population density, air pollution and socio-economic status. The research team compared concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and fine particulate matter for each location, using data from the Swedish National Register. They also compared the amount of sedatives, sleeping pills and antipsychotics dispensed to the study group, using data from the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare. More than 18 000 children received such medication at least once during a follow-up period of three-and-a-half years.
Lead author Anna Oudin told journalists that the multi-year study showed that there was a 9% increase in child mental illness for every 10 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m3) increase of nitrogen dioxide emitted into the air.
Reacting to the study’s findings, Bengt Rittri, founder and CEO of Blueair, a global air purifier manufacturer, said: “This new study firmly underlines how serious the air pollution threat is to everyone, not just in fast-developing nations like China and India, but also in long-industrialised countries like Sweden, which prides itself on having one of the cleanest environments in the world.”
Category: Summer 2016