A study that was recently released on JAMA Network Open claimed that long-term exposure to toxic air may increase the risk of depression in older adults. The researchers collected data from close to nine million older adults who were on Medicare from the years 2005 to 2016. Information was extracted from the subjects’ respective ZIP codes. Over 1.5 million of them underwent their first depression diagnosis in their later years.

Led by the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard, the study’s co-authors read like a who’s who in the fields of research, environmental health, and epidemiology. Additionally, some of the team members are from Emory University. According to them, late-life depression is a significant health concern and should be treated with the same importance given to dementia. 

While numerous studies about the link between mental health and air pollution have been conducted, only a few of them specifically focused on seniors or older adults. 

The research team focused on three air pollutants: ozone or smog (source: tailpipes), fine particulate matter – PM2.5/PM10 (gives air the hazy effect when toxic air levels are high), and nitrogen dioxide (source: fossil fuels such as diesel). Among the three types, the study identified nitrogen dioxide or NO2 as the most dangerous. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), late-onset depression is often difficult to diagnose because its symptoms can be mistaken for an older adult’s reaction to life changes, ageing, or illness. Xinye Qiu, PhD, a researcher for Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said that this confusion was one of the reasons why they conducted the study. 

Another reason why the team conducted the analysis is to encourage public health officials, governments, and environmental regulators to seriously consider the devastating effects of air pollution, especially on older adults. This way, they will be able to come up with stricter policies and mandates that can help address the years-long problem of air pollution.

It’s also important for researchers to continue studying air pollution and other environmental risks that may lead to geriatric depression. This will help the involved parties gain a deeper understanding of the condition (depression) and at the same time provide the right mental health services efficiently. 

Effects of air pollution

The emissions that come out of your diesel vehicle are dangerous pollutants. Nitrogen oxide or NOx, for example, has nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide as primary components – two gases that have adverse effects on human health. Exposure to these elements can trigger asthma and other respiratory problems.

NOx is also responsible for the formation of smog and acid rain, as well as a pollutant known as ground-level ozone that can damage plants, crops, and other vegetation. 

Breathing in NOx can also affect your cognitive skills, increasing your risk of dementia. Additionally, aside from depression, exposure to NOx emissions can also cause anxiety. This is true even for those who have not experienced episodes or attacks. 

Constant exposure to emissions, regardless of the volume, will lead to various health impacts that can hound you for the rest of your life. Aside from asthma and other respiratory diseases, you may also suffer from pulmonary oedema (fluid build-up in the lungs), breathing problems, and lung issues such as reduction of function. 

Serious health impacts include vocal cords spasm, asphyxiation, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases. In recent years, the number of early deaths linked to air pollution has continued to increase year after year. 

The first case of premature death due to toxic air happened in the UK in 2013 when Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah succumbed to a bout of severe asthma. She had been in and out of the hospital for consecutive months because of respiratory-related issues. Ella and her mother Rosamund lived in the South Circular Road area, so they have long been breathing in elevated levels of air pollution. 

Diesel emissions such as NOx became a household name because of the Dieselgate scandal.

The Dieselgate scandal

In September 2015, a Notice of Violation was sent to the Volkswagen Group as US authorities allegedly learned that the company had installed defeat devices in VW and Audi diesel-powered vehicles that were sold to consumers in America. The devices can sense when a vehicle is being tested so it automatically lowers emissions to levels that are within the World Health Organization’s (WHO) limits. The vehicle appears environmentally friendly and emissions-compliant to regulators but this happens only during testing conditions.

Once the vehicle is out of the lab and driven on real roads, it emits extremely high levels of nitrogen oxides. So, in reality, the vehicle is a pollutant. Volkswagen deceived their customers by selling vehicles that violate emissions standards. 

VW is not the only carmaker accused of using defeat devices, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Vauxhall have also been embroiled in the scandal. They are all responsible for exposing the affected drivers to dangerous NOx emissions, including older adults who may suffer from depression. 

Authorities believe that you and the other drivers have the right to file a diesel claim against your carmaker. If your claim is successful, you will receive compensation.

How should I start my diesel claim?

Before looking for an emissions expert to help process your diesel claim, you should first visit ClaimExperts.co.uk to verify if you are eligible to receive compensation. You’ll find all the information you need to start your emission claim from them.

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