Study: Pollution Makes You Dumber

EPA Photo

There is an interesting study on pollution out of China.  Normally, any study out of China would be a tad suspect, but this one only magnifies the costs of pollution choking Chinese and other citizens. Researchers found that pollution has a pronounced impact on reducing cognitive abilities. In other words, if lax pollution standards is dumb, pollution itself will actually make you dumber — making it more likely that you will allow more pollution in an environmental and intellectual downward spiral.  With 90 percent of humanity breathing bad air, that is a truly frightening thought.Researchers in China discovered that high pollution levels led to significant drops in language and maths test scores. The impact was so great that the researchers found that it would amount to the loss of “years of education.”  Moreover, the longer you are exposed to pollution, the longer lasting the impact on cognitive abilities.

The study also found evidence that pollution could increase the risk of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

We have often discussed how the full costs of pollution are rarely appreciated or even calculated. While greater pollution is often sold to the public in exchange for jobs, it is rarely put in terms of actual deaths or illnesses or other social and personal costs.

25 thoughts on “Study: Pollution Makes You Dumber”

  1. You should not accept the conclusions of a study with such questionable conclusions without confirming that the research results are statistically valid. My a priori probability is over 90% that the study is fatally flawed.

    Even if the results are valid, how does it follow that the dumber you are from pollution the more likely you are to accept it? Isn’t it about as likely that when you will over react and spend too much eliminating it?

  2. The Chinese smoke tobacco a lot too.
    In America when you have lung cancer and croak the death certificate might say that the cause was a cardiac arrest. They never put the cause of death as smoking. Guns are quicker.

    1. Cause of death is the disease or the end cause. Cardiac arrest would be appropriate if the person died of heart disease which is common among smokers as is cancer and COPD.

      A person can have cancer and die of heart disease, but your statement that death certificates are often inaccurate IMO is correct.

  3. Smoking tobacco is ten thousand times worse than just living in NYC. Went in dumb, come out dumb too. Hustlin round Atlanta in their alligator shoes.
    Tell your kids to never smoke.

  4. The solution is there but the status quo/oligarchs coupled with apathy rules. If you look at packaging, at least 50% of it is unnecessary and for advertising purposes only. In countries like Denmark where land fill areas are not an option, the trash comes in at one end, is sorted, recycled, composted, and then incinerated. The end result is many, many, many times less polluting. This creates an industry, jobs, wealth, and demands little participation on the part of the lazy homebody. Corporations exist with all the millionaires and engineers etc. The cost is ‘pay at the pump’, packaging and commodities are taxed to provide the revenue to deal with the waste.

    In the US, Canada, and other large ‘free’ countries, the consumer is put first and the trash is thrown just outside the city limits. We are closer to cave dwellers than people of the 21st Century. This is because the welfare and best interests of the people are placed well behind profit making of the manufacturers. It is next to impossible to get individuals to separate and compose and recycle to the degree that will offset our trash buildup. Just as with the renewable energy industry there are opportunities here for wealth, jobs, and waste management. What is in the way is not losing rights or freedoms but the status quo, the oligarchs, people like Trump.

    If ever there was an illustration of the choice between evolving intelligently and repairing the damage we have done; and creating wealth and abject stupidity it is so with American ingenuity, entrepreneurship, innovation, and the idiot Trump and his supporters. America has chosen stupidity for the moment. Lots of tough talk, lies, BS but stupidity after all the dust settles.

  5. Could that be why we find such high concentrations of Democrats in the large urban areas that have the worst pollution?

  6. No wonder California has gone off the deepend… smoggy LA has created a bunch of halfwits

    1. Smog hasn’t been a serious problem here since lead was taken out of gasoline.

      1. Peter Hill, I agree with you about the lead, but CA air is as brown as LA in the 1970s every summer during fire season.

        You would think that Brown would prioritize a Super Scooper over his vacation train…

  7. There is an excellent reason why studies that originate in China are suspect. That is because there has been one infamous case after another of fraud, corruption, and abandoning scientific principles to arrive at a desired result.

    In order for this study to be taken seriously, it has to be reproduced by reproducible and peer reviewed, which can certainly be undertaken.

    That said, our own research has shown that pollution is bad for human health in general. It’s certainly not vitamins we are breathing in the smog. I am pleased at the great strides we have taken in improving pollution since the 1970s, and am looking forward to future innovations. It is quite difficult to keep reducing pollution when our country’s population, and indeed the global population, keeps increasing. At some point, we strain the resources and leave a mess, based on numbers alone. This is true of all species. Deer over graze in too great a number. That is another reason why immigration must be controlled, so that we don’t find ourselves at the point where we have to export all farming, and build upon every square foot of open space and natural parks just to house everyone. I think in terms of hundreds of years in projections and trends. Everyone who has lived in the US for more than twenty years, except for Chicago and Detroit, can think about how much more built up and crowded it has become. There will be a bill that will come due one day for that.

    We also have no moral high ground to stand on over China in their miasma of toxic soup. We enjoy the not-in-my-backyard mentality, and simply export the dirty jobs to authoritarian countries who don’t answer to their people for their health concerns. Recycling plastics is an example. That’s a dirty business, which creates quite a bit of pollution. We use fossil fuels to ship our recycling over to China, where they have such strict rules on mixed materials that much of what can be recycled, isn’t. Then they pollute their own air and water recycling their plastic, manufacture more cheap plastic products with the material, and sell it back to us for the Social Justice Warriors to feel good about buying products made with recycled plastic from factories that abuse their workers. That oft-repeated saying that it takes 2/3 less energy to make a product from recycle plastic as virgin plastic does not take into account the enormous usage of fossil fuels shipping it all the way to Asia.

    Maybe a better solution, or at least an adjunct, is to move towards less of a disposable, single use cultural attitude towards containers.


    For years Republicans have viewed the EPA as a threat to free enterprise. In that context Republicans have down everything possible to stymie said agency. The United States is the only developed country in the world to officially doubt the science of Global Warming.

    Despite Republican efforts to cast doubts on Global Warming, The Pentagon has actually studied the issue in depth. Global Warming is sure to play an increasing role in driving security issues throughout the world. Mass migrations and refugee crisis’ will be fueled in part by a warmer planet.

    The Republican War On Science should be viewed for what is is: an anti-intellectual crusade by very stupidest. They are essentially Flat-Earthers seeking a return to the 19th Century policies.

  9. It’s no accident that many Beijing residents walk around the streets wearing surgical masks.

  10. Normally, any study out of China would be a tad suspect, but this one only magnifies the costs of pollution choking Chinese and other citizens.

    Translation: but because this study supports my worldview, I’m not going to question it.

    While greater pollution is often sold to the public in exchange for jobs,

    I believe Jonathan Gruber would support such a statement.

    1. Paul, are you concerned that this study wasn’t vetted by the Koch Bros? Should free-market ideology come before science?

          1. mespo – at least a lot of smoke. We are getting some of the smoke from the CA fires which add to our smut (dust and pollution) sending us over the top for Bad Air Quality Day with PM-10. I am sure we will be fined, however, I think CA should at least pay part of it. 😉

  11. This may explain a whole lot about California Maryland Illinois….oh just about most progressive Dem. controlled states. Just a thought !

    1. California tries to reduce airborne pollutants, however, Trump’s EPA is cutting back regs that address the problem.

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