The regulation of air pollution has reduced its toll on heart and lung diseases. For example, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 helped avert an estimated 160,000 deaths and 86,000 hospitalizations in 2010 alone.1 However, a growing body of research suggests that polluted air also puts our brain in harm’s way.

Chronic exposure to traffic-related pollutants may increase the risk of neurological disorders.2 Both short- and long-term exposures have been associated with reduced human capital, including the academic performance of schoolchildren3 and the productivity of workers across the adult lifespan.4 As Matthew Neidell of Columbia University and Joshua Graff Zivin of the University of California, San Diego, wrote in 2018, “The ubiquity of these less lethal impacts, revealed by emerging economic research on labor productivity and human capital accumulation, … can add up to considerable, society-wide impacts across the globe.”4

Components of Outdoor and Indoor Air Pollution


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