Air Pollution and Intelligence

Published: 8.31.2018
Level 5   |   Time: 2:57
Accent: British
BBC (8.28.2013)

Researchers believe air pollution has a negative impact on cognitive performance.


You can download the file [ HERE ].


triangle Directions

  1. REVIEW the vocabulary.
  2. LISTEN to the audio.
  3. ANSWER the questions.
  4. CHECK your answers (Show Answers)

triangle Vocabulary

  • emerged [v] - been discovered
  • joint [adj] - combined
  • chronic [adj] - often
  • exposure [n] - touched by
  • harm [v] - injure
  • cognitive [adj] - thinking
  • performance [n] - ability
  • monitored [v] - watched
  • pollutants [n] - dirty parts
  • published [v] - written
  • significant [adj] - large
  • drop [n] - decrease
  • average [adj] - middle, normal
  • equivalent to [exp] - equal to
  • enormous [adj] - huge
  • degenerative [adj] - causing decay, getting worse
  • previous [adj] - before
  • particularly [adv] - especially
  • striking [adj] - surprising, shocking
  • came out [v] - finished the study, got a result
  • put forward [v] - given
  • manual [adj] - physical labor
  • exposed [adj] - put in danger
  • toxic [adj] - poisonous, bad
  • surely [adv] - definitely, of course
  • rural [adj] - farm
  • fumes [n] - gasses
  • tissues [n] - brain material
  • regulating [v] - controlling
  • shrinked [v] - made smaller
  • vulnerable [adj] - in a weak/dangerous position
  • implications [n] - effects
  • hit the headlines [exp] - been in the news

[n] - noun,  [v] - verb,  [adj] - adjective,  [exp] - expression

triangle Questions

  1. Air pollution can ____.
    harm your lungs
    harm your breathing
    harm your thinkng
    harm your nose

  2. Who was the study done by?
    both Americans and Chinese

  3. What was the study?
    4 years; 20,000 people
    40 years, 20,000 people
    4 years; 2,000 people
    40 years, 2,000 people

  4. What did they discover about people exposed to high levels of pollution?
    They had slightly lower test scores.
    They had much lower test scores.
    They had the same test scores.
    They took longer to complete tests.

  5. What second result did they discover?
    Pollution can increase the risk of other diseases.
    Pollution causes Alzeihmer's.
    Pollution causes lung degeneration.
    Pollution is not related to lung disease.

  6. Which groups did worse in the study?
    Elderly men
    Educated men
    Pregnant women
    Less educated people

  7. Why did these groups do worse?
    They work outside in big cities.
    They stay inside and don't get fresh air.
    They can't afford to buy filters and masks.
    They work outside on the farms.

  8. In the brain, what does white matter do?
    It controls math and language.
    It fights disease.
    It controls memories.
    It regulates breathing.

  9. Which people are breathing polluted air?
    The people of China
    People around the world
    19% of all people
    90% of all people

  10. In India, where do most of the air pollution deaths occur?
    In the cities
    In the countryside
    Near the coast
    In the south

triangle Discussion

  1. Do you think your cognitive performance is related to the air pollution of Seoul?
  2. Would you prefer to live in Seoul (more toxic air) and work indoors, or live in rural areas and work outdoors?
  3. Which sources of pollutants are the worst in Korea? How can they be limited?

triangle Script

It's emerged that the air you breathe could damage your intelligence. A joint American and Chinese study found that chronic exposure to air pollution can seriously harm your cognitive performance.

The BBC’s Alice Porter told me more about the research. This was done over a four-year period where the math and verbal skills of some 20,000 people in China were closely monitored. So, we then compared the results with the level of pollutants in the air at the time, and their findings - they've been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And they found that high pollution levels led to a significant drop in test scores. So, they concluded that the longer people were exposed to dirty air the greater the damage to their cognitive performance with the average impact equivalent to having lost a year of the person's education which is enormous.

And this study, they’ve also suggested pollution also increases the risk of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Now that's something we've seen before with previous studies and also previous research has found that air pollution does harm cognitive performance. But it appears that this study this is the first one to examine people of all ages and the difference between men and women. What came out which was particularly striking was that the people who came out worse in the study were elderly people men. And I think most interestingly those who were less educated.

And why is that happening.

Well one of the reasons is, sort of put forward by some of the researchers, is that group that I just mentioned, particularly men, they're more likely to be working outdoors in manual jobs and they're more likely to be exposed to toxic air. Now you may be thinking well if you’re perhaps a farmer working out in the fields surely the air will be cleaner. You'd be away from toxic air. But actually, if we think of India which has hit the headlines a lot for pollution, a study in January found that 75 percent of deaths related to air pollution in India was in rural areas. So, for those people who are less educated who are outdoors more impacts on their lifestyle and also the way that these toxic fumes affect them.

Now, Dr. Shi Chan is one of the researchers who was involved with this study.

In people’s brain, there are two type of main tissues: one is white matter and one is grey matter. The white matter is more regulating the mathematics and the language skills. So if a certain individual with lower education working outdoors for a longer period of time, so their white matters can already being shrinked by air pollution. So that means giving the same dose of air pollution, they are more vulnerable than people with high education.

Now that was Dr Shi there but of course this has implications not just in China but around the world. The World Health Organization says more than 90 percent of people are breathing in unsafe air.

And I think this study will certainly raise questions about the personal impact for those people who are regularly exposed to pollution.

Alice Porter.

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