Air Pollution is Linked to Higher Chances of Eye Sight Loss

Jacob Nguyen

According to a new study, being exposed to air pollution can be linked to permanent sight loss in older people. Researchers, from the University College London, found that even low exposure from air pollution in the areas of England, Scotland and Wales appears to increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

In high-income countries, AMD is the leading cause of permanent blindness among people 50 or older. AMD is the cause of the loss to central vision. This vision is needed for reading, detailed tasks and recognizing faces. The largest factors for AMD are genetics, old age and smoking. Researchers have found that the most polluted areas were more likely to report having sight loss from AMD. 

A team of researchers studied 115,954 people of ages 40-69 to see if air pollution had any correlation with AMD. They studied whether or not they had AMD and compared it to the estimated amounts of pollutants in their area. It was found that the people that lived in the more polluted areas reported macular degeneration more frequently than those who lived in less polluted areas. 

It was found that the main pollutants linked to macular degeneration were PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide and exide nitrogen. PM2.5 is a tiny pollutant that can be made up of dust, dirt, soot or smoke, but it is mostly from power plants and vehicle emissions. It is a tiny particle that can be inhaled into the lungs and enter the bloodstream. The main sources of nitrogen dioxide and exide nitrogen are vehicle emissions, gas stoves and kerosene heaters. These pollutants can cause damage to the eyes because there is high blood flow in the eye wall. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is responsible for the deaths of seven million people worldwide. Deaths result from stroke, heart disease, acute respiratory infections and many more. WHO shows data that concludes that nine out of 10 people breathe air that exceeds guideline limits on levels of pollution. 

It is clear that the presence of pollution in our everyday lives negatively affects us. AMD is just one example of how bad air quality could hurt our health. If we don’t want air pollution to worsen, we have to develop new ways of using energy to slow the damage that is being done to our Earth.