Skip to content

Mental Illness Linked to Air Pollution

    Research conducted among approximately 13,000 London residents revealed that small increases in nitrogen dioxide exposure results in a rise of around 32% in chances of requiring outpatient or community-based care and treatment, and an 18% rise in the risk of needing hospital admission.

    Additionally, the study discovered that an increase in diesel vehicle emissions, particularly nitrogen dioxide, also increased a person’s risk of several mental disorders by 39%. In the case of tiny particle pollution produced by brake and tyre dust and burning fuels, the risk increase is 18%. 

    For residents in areas where the level of particle pollution is higher than usual, the chances of experiencing mental health issues are higher compared to areas with lower levels of particle pollution. Individuals exposed to air pollution in increasing volumes (even small ones) are susceptible to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

    The study observed over 1,000 adult, south east London residents for a period of five years but the findings can be applied to any city or town anywhere in the world.  

    There are other factors that contribute to the risk, such as childhood experiences and genetics. However, air pollution is the only factor that can be prevented or reduced.

    King’s College London lecturer and research leader Dr. Ioannis Bakolis believes that coming up with programs and campaigns to bring down air pollution levels is an effective health measure that can help prevent psychiatric or mental disorders.

    For residents in urban areas, the numbers are higher, according to Imperial College London and research team member Dr. Ian Mudway. This is because of additional factors such as urbanisation and limited green space. 

    What else does air pollution do?

    According to the World Bank, toxic air has so far cost the global economy trillions every year; £3.8tn to be exact. This record only includes common lung- and heart-related health conditions. There is also an increase in cases of dementia because of the decrease in intelligence.

    Additionally, toxic air has been linked to an increase in suicides as well. 

    President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Dr. Adrian James also stated that dirty air can aggravate severe mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia. Long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to a reduction in cognitive intelligence, particularly among the male population. 

    In 2019, a global review was published and stated that air pollution may cause damage to all organs of the human body.

    Diesel emissions

    Diesel emissions are a huge factor in the development of air pollution impacts. Diesel vehicles emit nitrogen oxide or NOx, a dangerous gas that contains nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen oxide (NO2). 

    NOx reacts with other compounds to form smog and acid rain, which are both significant contributors to toxic air. Additionally, it also creates ground-level ozone, which affects vegetation and can make crops and plants susceptible to frost and damage. It also stunts plants and crop growth. 

    The biggest reason why nitrogen emissions must be reduced are the impacts it has on human health.

    Exposure to low levels of nitrogen emissions can cause the following health issues:

    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Headaches
    • Asthma
    • Exacerbated asthma
    • Emphysema
    • Bronchitis
    • Other respiratory issues

    Constant exposure to high levels of nitrogen oxides makes a person susceptible to risks for certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases. It can also lead to serious health conditions such as chronic lung problems, reduced body tissue oxygenation, upper respiratory tract and throat tissue swelling, spasms, rapid burning, fluid build-up in the lungs, and premature death. 

    Diesel emissions scandal

    Nitrogen oxides mainly come from road transport, specifically diesel vehicles. This became evident after the Dieselgate scandal broke in September 2015. The scandal initially involved only Volkswagen but soon spread and other car manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz were implicated. 

    Carmakers involved in the scandal were allegedly equipped with defeat devices that are programmed to detect when a vehicle is being tested. Once they do, they limit emissions levels so these stay within the levels of the limits set by the World Health Organization. 

    When the vehicles are driven in real-world road conditions, however, the vehicles revert to their default settings, emitting considerable – and thus, illegal – levels of nitrogen oxides. 

    Thus, vehicles with defeat devices are highly polluted and pose a risk to the environment and human health.

    These health impacts, in addition to the mental health issues and the carmakers’ deceitful act of using defeat devices, are the reasons why car owners affected by the diesel emissions scandal should file an emissions claim

    Filing a diesel emissions claim

    How do I file my diesel claim?

    The emissions claim process can be challenging and time-consuming, but you’ll find all the help you need from a panel of emissions solicitors. They’re trained and experienced in winning compensation claims, so you know you’re in good hands.

    First off, though, you need to determine if you are eligible for a claim. The panel of solicitors at can help you with this. Get in touch with them now to find out if you can start your claim.