Mind Matters — More to Heat and Pollution Than Meets the Eye (It May Be Your Brain That Gets Walloped)

Some people may argue, “So what if it’s hot? It’s summer.” However, last weekend and some days before that, with temperatures soaring above 100 degrees, I couldn’t disagree more.

I find myself on such days to feel foggy brained and out of breath. My allergy symptoms flare.

My clients, however, are a wealth of information. One individual, who was also suffering such effects, reminded me of the role of air pollution and ozone levels that rocket when the temperature is so high. Duh! No wonder she and I both felt awful. I heard similar anecdotal reports from other clients.

I checked the internet for air pollution levels and sure enough our locale was in the orange zone for high ozone levels. Unlike its partners in crime, smog and particulate pollution, ozone is invisible, but it is the heavy oxygen that gets formed through various gas exhausts, including lawn mowers.

Most of us are aware that air pollution is good for no one and is especially detrimental to the health of children, the elderly, people with lung conditions or asthma.

But I also discovered this week, in the midst of my heavy headedness, a report in the APA (American Psychological Association) Monitor (Jul/Aug, 2012), that there is now research linking air pollution to both cognitive decline in the elderly, and to deleterious effects on the cognitive development of the young.

The neuro-scientific and psychological research is ongoing, and there are many questions to be answered. However, the results thus far point to a direct link of air pollution to negative effects on central nervous system function, i.e., our brains. If mercury made the hatter mad, surely breathing in environmental toxins that can pass the blood-brain barrier don’t do us any good either.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not included psychological research in their analyses of pollution yet. It is a hope that not just the EPA, but that we all will consider the impact of pollution on our aging brains as well as the developing minds of our children and grandchildren.

Facts regarding Ambient Ozone Ground Level: “Bad ozone” is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight. Emissions from industry, electric utilities, vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors and chemicals, are the major sources (Environmental Protection Agency, EPA). The high altitude ozone layer is protective, down at earth, ozone is harmful to breathe.