Today we'll be discussing 4 surprising, and really rather interesting, facts about air pollution. We’re here to equip you with action-provoking ideas, so that you can take reasonable steps to breathe clean air and protect yourself from pollution. Plus it’ll give you a bit more to chat about at your next dinner party.

1) It causes weight gain 

January is over. You may have tried, and spectacularly succeeded or failed, to embed a healthier routine into your lifestyle. Either way, pollution won’t be helping you out.

A study conducted by the University of North Texas has found exposure to some air pollutants may cause weight gain. The study found that certain chemicals from car exhausts, among other pollutants, can distort the signals between fatty cells, increasing both the size and quantity of the cells.

Of course, nobody wants toxic air to detract from the benefits of cycling, running or walking. Pollution awareness is clearly essential, which is part of the reason why Airhead is here.

To find out more about University of North Texas' study, click here.

2) It reduces intelligence

It’s been reported that air pollution causes a “huge” reduction in intelligence. Yes, huge.


The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study in 2018 stating that long term exposure to air pollution impedes cognitive performance in languages and maths tests (Zhang et al, 2018).

The study found that breathing in nitrogen oxide (typically from vehicle exhaust) and sulphur dioxide (from burning fossil fuels) at high levels, for a prolonged period of time, could reduce a person's education level by a whole year. Astonishing.

Given that 95% of the global population are thought to be breathing unsafe air, this is a pretty colossal IQ slip.

To read Zhang et al's paper, click here.

3) It alters your DNA 

Before you get carried away and begin tailoring your superhero costume and dreaming up a new name (thank you superheronamegenerator.com for “Lady Mercy”) this pollution-related DNA alteration isn't as much fun as you think it could be.

The University of British Columbia conducted an experiment for two hours, where participants sat in a room that simulated the pollution levels of the world's most polluted cities. Comparing blood samples from before and after the two-hour exposure, researchers found that the DNA methylation patterns had changed, which meant that the molecules that turn genes on and off had altered. The author of the study, Chris Carlsten, noted that the changes in two hours were not large enough to cause any biological changes on their own, but chronic exposure could have some ‘serious accumulated biological effects’.

To read about UBC's study, click here.

4) Air pollution seriously affects children

Children living in Tower Hamlets, London, have up to 10% lower lung capacity than the national average, due to air pollution. Babies in prams have also been shown to be exposed to up to 60% more pollution than adults. Neither of things are happy things to talk about. Children should be free to spend extended periods of time outside, exploring nature and all the good things the world has to offer, not being hit by permanently damaging effects of toxic air.

Photo by Shuto Araki on Unsplash

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that air pollution caused the deaths of around 600,000 children in 2016. This is a dismal outcome, that requires a lot of attention so that it can be fixed. 

What to do?

These effects are just the crumble of the cookie, there are so many more that we could have thrown at you (e.g. pollution causes hair loss). And, unfortunately, we don't know the full extent to which the current effects will grow, and what new effects will be discovered. But what can you do? 



We have the world’s most innovative pollution mask, right around the corner, to provide you with industry-leading protection from toxic air in cities. We’re a short period away from launching on Kickstarter, and we’ll be revealing details of the product very soon. Hit the button below and join our community to receive exciting updates and a discount when we launch.

That’s all for today, until next time!


By Natasha Das