Exposure to NO2 linked to schizophrenia

Children who are exposed to high levels of daily air pollution face a 600% higher chance of developing schizophrenia, according to research published in the JAMA Network Open. 

Schizophrenia is a severe long-term mental health condition, it causes a range of different psychological symptoms, from hallucinations to losing interest in everyday activities. 

Researchers from Aarhus University, Denmark used national registry data, and pollution data from the Department of Environmental Science to investigate the link between exposure to air pollution and schizophrenia.

Individuals born in Denmark in 1981 were in contact with the researchers until either their first occurrence with schizophrenia, their emigration, death or until the end date of the preliminary research in December 2012. 

The researchers then estimated the daily-mean exposure to nitrogen oxide (NO2) for each individual. 

The researchers found that children who were exposed to an average daily level of about 25μg/m3 had a 600% greater risk of developing schizophrenia when compared to those who were exposed to less than 10μg/m3 NO2. 

The World Health Organisation recommends a NO2 daily average limit of 50 μg/m3, the results of this study indicate that the guidelines need to be reassessed. 

Henriette Thisted Horsdal, the lead author of the study, said: ‘The risk of developing schizophrenia is also higher if you have a higher genetic liability for the disease. 

‘Our data shows that these associations are independent of each other.

‘The association between air pollution and schizophrenia cannot be explained by a higher genetic liability in people who grow up in areas with higher levels of air pollution.’ 

The researchers concluded that they cannot comment on the cause between NO2 and schizophrenia, and therefore indicate that further research is necessary to investigate the link between the two. 

AirQualityNews has reported on several studies linking air pollution to mental health issues, for example, in December 2019, researchers from University College London found that individuals who are exposed to higher levels of air pollution are more likely to experience depression or to die by suicide.

Photo Credit – Pixabay