Teenagers exposed to toxic air 'at risk of psycotic episodes'

The results of a ground-breaking study published today have been widely reported in the press. Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry and Kings College London studied more than 2063 17-year olds born in England and Wales. The findings suggest that teenagers who live in areas of high pollution in the UK are more likely to suffer psychotic experiences.

Researchers from Kings College London (KCL) said that while they could not prove dirty air was causing the episodes, they factored out other potential causes such as crime, deprivation, inherited mental illness, smoking, drinking and drug use. Air pollution could plausibly cause mental health conditions by carrying heavy metal particles into the lungs and body, or by causing inflammation, as the brain is rapidly developing in childhood and adolescence. The researchers cautioned that more work was needed to verify a causal link - but likened findings to the first investigations into the relationship between smoking and lung cancer.
They were unable to rule out the possibility that the phenomenon may be driven by some other characteristic of life in more air-polluted areas which was not accounted for in the study, such as louder traffic noise, which can cause stress and disrupt sleep. In the KCL study, the first of its kind, young people living in urban areas were found to be twice as likely to have psychotic experiences. The researchers also found a link between small-particle pollution. Psychotic experiences were 45% more common for teenagers exposed to higher levels. Dr Newbury (KCL) said there was a “need to be cautious” as the study did not show that air pollution caused psychotic experiences or increased the risk of suffering from them. Noise pollution from traffic could also play a significant role. It is thought pollution particles cause inflammation in the brain and potentially stunt development, and children living in urban areas are twice as likely as those in rural areas to develop psychosis as an adult.
Co-author Professor Frank Kelly (KCL) said as vehicles were responsible for the bulk of emissions, improvements in London were likely from the Mayor’s new ultra low emission zone.Both were keen to point out that while this research provided good evidence, it was important that more studies be conducted to fully assess the findings. (https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/teenagers-exposed-to-toxic-air-at-risk-of-psychotic-episodes-a4102086.htmlhttps://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/psychosis-air-pollution-paranoia-teenager-mental-health-diesel-a8842106.html, https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/8736198/pollution-mental-health-psychotic-disorders/, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/27/air-pollution-linked-to-psychotic-experiences-in-young-people , https://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/pollution-gives-kids-paranoia-exhaust-14195055 ,  https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/air-pollution-traffic-fumes-linked-to-teenage-pyschosis-study-finds-tw9swg20w, )