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Researchers study impact of air pollution on mental health

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London have been awarded a £300,000 grant to examine the impact of air pollution on children’s brain function and mental health.

The research team will examine the impact of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone on the brain development of pupils from 85 primary schools across Luton, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lambeth, Westminster, Camden, Islington, and the City of London.

The study will show whether improving air quality can improve brain development and prevent the onset of mental health problems.

Over the next three years, the study will explore whether the reduction in traffic and overall air pollution improves the brain development of children, measured by fun and engaging tasks such as problem solving and memory recall, and monitor their wellbeing through mental health questionnaires.

Researchers will relate these changes in brain development to mental health, building on the ongoing CHILL (Children’s Health in London and Luton) study of 3,416 primary school children investigating the effects of air pollution on respiratory health and lung development.

Professor Mark Mon-Williams, Professor of Psychology at the Bradford Institute of Health Research said: ‘Ultimately this research could help to improve educational outcomes, identify children at risk of future mental health problems due to the air quality where they live, and this could enable earlier intervention and allow public services to provide the necessary support and action.’

Dr Ian Mudway, Senior Lecturer in the MRC Centre for Environment and Health at Imperial College, commented: ‘Results of CHILL COGNITION may throw light on causes of health inequalities whereby children from disadvantaged backgrounds may be more adversely affected by poor air quality.’

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