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Jessica Pachuca

After reading the papers, it is clear that there are various potential health impacts of pollution on a wide variety of people and ages. It was interesting to read about the effects on different groups for short and long-term impacts. Why is there limited worry for the effects of air pollution as our world currently stands? It was mentioned in class today that the effects of climate change seem distant to our current population. If there are present impacts, why is that the case? How can we effectively share this information with the wider population without them shutting down? It is unfortunate that this issue is not high enough on the list of priorities for many individuals. Aside from this, an additional aspect I found interesting was from the first article. The reading states that there is a larger effect of pollution for those who are less educated. Is this due to a correlation between low-income and low-quality neighborhoods? For instance, how does the air quality compare between low and high-income neighborhoods? I'd imagine there are large differences, but how would those differences differ in countries, states, and cities? In what ways does the lack of socioeconomic mobility for high-poverty families play a role? How can we relieve these issues? This reminds me of the idea that those least responsible or least able to adapt to environmental issues are the ones most impacted. If the impact of pollution was more evenly distributed, would there be more care for these issues? Could this extend to other inequalities in our nation?


I found the paper regarding the pollution and cognition relationship by age in China to be very interesting. I am surprised that there are not more studies on the cognitive impairments pollution has on people, but this study proved to shed light on the issue. The paper brings up the economic cost associated with pollution effects and how this negative externality has been neglected by policy. Thinking about the adverse impact on a human capital level has to inflict uproar for change. The top 20 polluted cities in the world are in developing countries, and without some sort of environmental change, these countries are set up to fail. I have never thought about the cognitive effects that pollution might have, but after reading about them, I feel like the cognitive effects are just as if not more harmful than the physical effects. In order for countries to develop, the people in these countries need to develop, and with the levels of pollution, this study shows that cognitive ability will continue to decline. I also found it interesting that exposure to air pollution impedes men's verbal test scores more than women's. The total cost of air pollution is much more significant than people think, and it will be interesting to see how the trend continues as air pollution rises. I wonder if it is possible to reverse negative cognitive effects due to air pollution and if any money is going into that. Cutting down pollution in developing countries not only medically benefits the countries but can economically benefit these countries by the increase of human capital and cognitive ability.

William Dantini

I thought these articles were interesting because of their ability to link the science with the social and economic effects they have. The articles give a direct link between pollution and health effects on our lives, whether it is through life-threatening diseases like heart failure, the suceptible like those with asthma and similar diseases, or your ability to think. After going through two years of this pandemic, I don't have much faith in the general population trusting the science or caring about people susceptible to certain conditions or diseases made worse by pollution. I hope that those who worry about the long-term effects of the coronavirus feel the same way about pollution. Unlike the pandemic, however, pollution effects everyone to some extent.
Although I think these effects are important for understanding the magnitude of the effect increased pollution has on our lives, it does a poor job of convincing people to do something about it. Although a quick trip to Delhi or a coal plant will probably convince someone about the bad effects of pollution, the easiest way will probably be to relate it to their own pollution. For example, asking someone what it would be like to stand behind an idling truck all day, maybe even while on a treadmill, would feel like. For the more conservative, maybe asking how annoying it would be to wear a mask every day because the air is too polluted to breathe.
I remember one of the most profound things my APES teacher showed us were pictures of different cities before and after clean air legislation was introduced. For the average person, seeing this difference visually works. This ties in the psychological science of economics and the problem with pollution. Convincing people and governments to take greater steps against pollution is just as important now as it was when combating the smoking industry.

Valerie Sokolow

I think these readings were interesting and helpful in providing an additional angle to the environmental issues we’re facing right now. When considering the conclusions/policy implications of these paper in combination with the more environmentally geared papers, it almost makes the whole issue seem even more impossible. Not impossible in the sense that these problems cannot be fixed, but impossible in that it seems like there is nothing we can say or show to make change. I’m sure these findings, or similar findings, have been presented to policy makers in the past so the sentiment just feels like, “What more evidence do they need that the best thing to do is to address these issues head on?” Talking about global warming and natural disasters hasn’t seemed to help, talking about health issues hasn’t seemed to help, so it feels like the issues are just so ingrained in our society and cannot be fixed without essentially turning the whole thing upside down. I am taking an American National Government class right now, and we’ve spent a lot of time talking about legislation and how difficult it is to make change so perhaps my worries are stemming from that class as well. I suppose we talked about it today (albeit morbidly) and said that we have to wait for some people to die so that we can make change. While I feel like the situation is somewhat dismal now, I do see hope in that we know of ways we can address it and that it is not truly impossible.


The part describing that less educated men are more affected by air pollution exposure than women and is further exacerbated in the long-term was surprising to me. While a focus on alleviating air pollution should obviously be of main concern, this seems to also have some implications for increasing the focus on more education in developing nations, as those who are more educated appear less vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. This report left me wondering if less educated people are more susceptible to similar consequences resulting from climate change and pollutants. Furthermore, the Australia piece was less surprising altogether in finding that children with a history of breathing problems are more vulnerable to ambient ozone pollution. All things considered, it seems clear that particulate matter and air pollution in general needs to be of great focus because of its seemingly detrimental effect on loss of life and on worsening overall quality of life.

Claire Jenkins

Each of the articles discuss various negative health effects of pollution. It was not surprising for me to read that there are negative health effects associated with emissions, and many of these negative effects are more severe for those more at risk and more vulnerable. One statistic that shocked me was, “Almost all of the cities (98%) in low and middle-income countries with more than 100,000 residents fail to meet World Health Organization air quality guidelines.” Zhang makes it clear that air pollution has a negative impact on cognitive ability, threatening the human capital of people. One thing that I found extremely disheartening to read was that air pollution has more pronounced negative effects on the less educated in terms of cognitive ability. We know that climate change disproportionately affects the most vulnerable people in the world, and those people are often those living in poverty in developing nations. The air pollution in these nations is going to further impede their ability to develop their human capital and get access to opportunities to get themselves out of poverty. If children and young adults of these vulnerable populations cannot fully develop their cognitive skills due to effects of air quality, they aren’t going to be able to develop their human capital in a way that allows them to escape poverty traps. I would be curious to learn more about how exposure to air pollution can affect the development of a child, starting in utero. The results found from the same study in China also indicate that the effect of air pollution is more pronounced as people age. Something that I found interesting was how the authors pointed out the impact that air pollution can cause on important decision making. For example, I would have never made the connection between a decision that an elderly person makes about their retirement spending and the quality of air in the area surrounding that person. This just further indicates that air pollution can have profound and far-reaching effects, particularly in terms of decisions they make on a day-to-day basis. So far, we have discussed how climate change and pollution negatively affect the environment and development in great depth, so I think that it was necessary for us to also learn about the real health effects associated with these issues as well. It is crucial for policymakers to recognize these adverse health effects. If these environmental problems are not mitigated, the health effects associated with them will have negative consequences for society, particularly the less vulnerable populations who will suffer from being pushed deeper into poverty traps.

AJ Mabaka

I thought each of these papers did an excellent job of connecting the social, economic, and health costs associated with air pollution. While I hadn't really known about the potential for air pollution to adversely impact cognitive function, the study in China provided a very clear picture about the detrimental effects that air pollution can have on human cognitive function (which was scary to say the least). Interestingly, as more research and studies come out about negative effects of air pollution on human health in general, I'm curious what policy/regulatory revisions may be made to mitigate these adverse impacts. As Zhang et al put it, a narrow focus on the negative effects "on health may underestimate the total cost of air pollution." So then, to avoid too narrow a focus wherein we might overlook potential negative effects of air pollution, should regulatory standards become more stringent and if so, how might organizations contributing to air pollution respond to such increasingly stringent regulations? Even more so, are there any novel technological innovations that have proven effective in reducing the release of harmful compounds associated with air pollution? (If so, are these innovations financially affordable for widespread distribution and utilization?) Lastly, there was a part of the article by Andre Nel that I found both alarming and intriguing. Namely, it was the fact that we need to "determine which chemical components are most important and whether, in addition to the PM mass, we also need to monitor particle number when considering the effects of ultrafine particles." I would imagine that we definitely need to monitor the PM mass and the particle number when considering the effects of ultra fine particles. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, the Alexis et al. paper concludes that particulate pollutants may prove to have more formidable human health implications than previously thought.

Blake Cote

It does not surprise me at all that particulate matter has adverse health effects. It does surprise me that studies have shown that there has been an increase in cardiac and respiratory morbidity and mortality from exposure to particulate matter. It also does not surprise me that kids with a history of wheezing endure harmful health effects from average levels of ambient ozone, or that it is even worse for children with bronchial hyperactivity or asthma. What really did surprise me was the effect that particulate matter is taking on peoples’ cognitive performance. The PNAS paper points out that large portions of populations in developing countries live in places with unsafe air which is something that I think most people are aware of, particularly when thinking about different parts of India, China, and parts of the Middle East. It was interesting to read that polluted air may hurt cognitive ability as people age, especially for less educated men. It was also interesting that increasing air quality would lead to higher verbal and math test scores. I know that the article mentioned that the knowledge and existing studies of the impact on air pollution on cognition are limited, but I am curious to see how this theory is further studied in the future. One question I have is about how long the time period would be between the start of the process of cutting annual concentration of particulate matter and actually seeing increased testing scores in these populations. I know this is probably a precarious question but it would be interesting to find out timelines for these sorts of problems to give people an idea of how long it would take to start seeing some progress towards resolution.

Jack Lewis

The article I focused on discussed air pollution-related illness. After reading plenty of economics based articles for the past couple of months, I enjoyed how scientifically driven the article written by Nel was. Scientific research gets rid of many doubts about certain issues because it is difficult to ignore the evidence. PM is harmful to humans and the article discusses how there is experimental support that describes the effects of PM being inflammation, cytokine and chemokine release, production of white blood cells, stimulation of irritant receptors, and more. Even worse, researchers believe the unregulated ultrafine particles are potentially the most dangerous. These ultrafine particles are a major component in vehicle emissions which are the largest source of air pollution in urban areas. Additionally, ultrafine particles have the ability to penetrate deeper into lung tissue than fine or coarse particles. With increased concern among professionals and the public, it is clear that further research must be conducted on the adverse health effects of PM. More implications may arise in the future from the negative health effects of PM, especially in major urban areas. People of older age and those at higher risk for lung issues will likely be advised to reside in more suburban or rural areas. Unless we can move to fully electric vehicles at a faster pace, this may be the reality for many.

Josh Fingerhut

All three of these papers highlight the adverse health effects of exposure to air pollution. I believe these results are significant for a few reasons. During the lecture earlier this week with Katharine Hayhoe, she emphasized that the best way to get people to care about the environment is by displaying how environmental degradation/ climate change will affect something that they care about. She also discussed how people have an easier time rationalizing dangers that are localized and not far in the future. I think that air pollution fits into this framework and can be a way to start that conversation with many people. For example, the paper written by Bernstein et al. mentions that ozone pollution is associated with an increased risk of asthma amongst children playing outside sports in California. No parent wants their child to develop asthma and this frightening fact may wake them up to the realities of pollution. Additionally, all three papers make it clear that these are effects that are being felt right now. This may be easier for people to rationalize versus something such as sea level rise in the future.

Another takeaway for me is that the issue of air pollution must be examined through an environmental justice lens. Bernstein et al. suggest in their conclusion, "In choosing new residential locations, patients should give preference to sites remote from heavy automobile traffic or chemical manufacturing plants". However, those with less social mobility do not always have the luxury to move away from this pollution. Furthermore, operations that release a lot of pollutants may choose to locate in poorer neighborhoods due to cheaper real estate or exploiting the fact that disenfranchised neighborhoods may have less political capital to fight back. These same neighborhoods may also have limited access to health care needed to mitigate these effects. Therefore, air pollution is another example of an environmental impact that is felt disproportionately by those of lower socioeconomic status.

Giang Nguyen

All of these papers point out that the link between air pollution and respiratory issues is there. The evidence is concrete, yet we don't see a lot of changes in policies or behaviours on a corporate and individual level. I think the first reason may be that these negative effects take a long time to realize. It may be after 30 years that the people recognize that they have really bad lungs because they live in a polluted area. As a result, when they make a decision now, they don't take that long-term possibility into consideration yet. Secondly, if the people are sick because of pollution, the money to pay for that healthcare is usually on the patients themselves or the governments. Firms that are responsible for carbon emissions don't have to bear that healthcare costs, so it's reasonable that they don't have the health effects of pollution in mind when they make a decision. Especially, a lot of places that are heavily polluted are also low-income and the people there have no choice but to work under those conditions.

There are a few things that I'm curious about after reading the paper. I wonder if there is evidence on how air pollution affects a healthy person, maybe a similar study like this but on a healthy group of participants. I'm also curious about how we can put a dollar value on the health consequences of air pollution. Should we do it in terms of healthcare cost, avoided deaths, etc...?

Hayden Roberts

All three of these papers highlight the very real and dangerous effects of air pollution on the human body and living standards. These negative effects decrease labor productivity and lead to casualty. The Zhang paper in particular brings another factor into play when it comes to air pollution. It discusses the negative effects of air pollution on cognitive performance. Results on verbal tests and decision making skills both declined when measured in areas with high air pollution. This is important because many of the countries with poor air quality are developing countries. These countries tend to have unequal access to education so negative cognitive performances have compounding effects on the productivity of the countries. This should be discussed more as increasing the productivity of developing countries can serve as a piece in the puzzle of solving the world's inequality. However, in order to address the health problem, we have to first look back to the energy sector to change its emissions protocol. This is a problem as developing countries rely on cheaper forms of energy to fuel their production. These cheaper priced energies are often the sectors that pollute the most. Therefore, incentives must exist for change to occur. The health effects will persist if air quality does not improve.

Allyssa Utecht

I found these articles to be a really helpful connection between the general negative effects of climate change, and how they disproportionately affect real people. The articles attempted to connect the direct health effects of pollution and the indirect economic effects on global societies. Two of the studies particularly focused on how air pollution impacts already disadvantaged people - uneducated males and children with respiratory issues. It was especially worrisome to read how cognitive impacts from pollution are amplified for those who are already uneducated. Most of the population in developing countries live in places with polluted air, which is especially concerning when the cognitive impacts are considered, because this could prevent them from advancing their financial status and becoming more developed. I also thought it was really interesting that the results for the study on ambient ozone were found in metropolitan Sydney where there aren’t even any point sources of air pollution; I can’t imagine what the results would be if the study was conducted in a metropolitan area with multiple point sources such as automobile exhaust. In the article on particulate matter, the ultrafine, unregulated particles are the most dangerous and are the primary component of automobile exhaust, which is especially prevalent in places like cities and urban areas. Also, the ozone study was done in 1999 - I wonder how much the impacts have increased since then. While I do feel like the studies were somewhat able to express how worrisome and dangerous air pollution is, I just don’t think citing scientific evidence is enough anymore to changing social views on climate change. Unfortunately, most people won’t change their actions unless they see how it is directly affecting their lives or until the damage is already done.

Cal Christianson

It is clear that emitting air pollutants is incredibly harmful to society. As the reports said, high concentrations of air pollution causes severe health effects. Naturally, we would assume that this fact alone would be enough to spur change. We would expect governments to impose restrictions on pollution as a form of maintaining a healthy populace. Even if we assume that governments are not benign and only think in terms of grand geopolitical strategy, it would still make sense for restrictions to be imposed. Cleaner air equals a healthier populace. This healthy population would be more effective in achieving whatever the goals of the country are, whether those are militarily or economically based. As we know, governments have been slow and inconsistent on acting upon these notions. Even when the staggering economic losses associated with dirty air is factored into the decision making process, change is still slow to come. This might be a result of the types of populations that are most at risk for suffering these adverse effects. Most communities that suffer from poor air quality are marginalized. With little economic or political power, it has been hard for these communities to make a significant difference. As much as we hate to admit it, politicians are more inclined to listen to a rich white man than a poor black woman. The problems associated with poor air quality are not only environmental problems. They are also social justice problems.

Camryn Bostick

Whenever you are in a city, or a more densely populated area, you are aware of the pollutants in the air, but even when you are outside of these areas you are still breathing in dangerous particulate matter without even realizing it. I thought that it was interesting and concerning that the particulate matter that is being monitored and regulated by the government is the coarser types, rather than the more dangerous "ultra fine" matter that can more easily embed into your lungs. One of the biggest warnings that get taught when it comes to air quality is to never smoke around a pregnant woman, because it is not good for the fetus. While reading all the effects and illnesses caused by particles in Nel's article, I wondered why people were more worried about the few minutes of smoke compared to the sometimes lifetime worth of particulate matter caused by fossil fuels.
In Zhang's article, I noticed the pattern of the negative feedback loop within air pollution and cognitive abilities. Being that the most harm caused by air pollution occurs in the lower income areas, those whose cognitive abilities have been affected by air pollution will likely stay in this area and endure more physical and mental damage. Therefore, the following generation will likely have the same effects and stay in the same unsafe areas. It was not a surprise to me that air pollution has a lot of adverse health effects, but it was a new information that it also impairs your cognitive ability. Impaired decision making, as said in the article, can also lead to worse health, as you need to be able to choose your health insurance and health care.

Kate Hannon

While reading these articles, one major point that stood out was how localized air pollution often is. By localized, I’m referring both to local air pollution in China as well as air pollution in Australia (especially as a result of differences in ozone concentrations). In China, rapid development has led to high levels of local pollution. Local populations are bearing the cost of local pollution, and yet the development that caused this pollution has benefitted the world as a whole; for example, factories produce goods that are consumed throughout the world. In Australia, pollution and ozone concentrations are having negative effects on asthma rates in children, though the actions of people outside of Australia could still be having an influence on ozone depletion in the country. To me, these examples beg the question: how much (if any) responsibility does the rest of the world have to address local pollution in developing countries, or to address problems like ozone depletion that disproportionately affect certain areas of the world? When we talk about pollution in developing countries, we tend to think about how these countries are contributing to climate change as a whole. This is an important consideration, but I also think it’s important to think about the local pollution in developing nations. The world benefits economically from this development, but the consequences of pollution are almost entirely felt, at least in the short run, by these developing countries. One possible way to address this issue is for foreign countries investing in these countries to be partially responsible for ensuring this presence in the country is not environmentally destructive in major ways. In the case of developed nations like Australia that may be bearing the burden of pollution throughout the world (in this case looking at ozone levels), such solutions may be harder to implement, but still deserve consideration as we work to make economic development more sustainable and equitable.

Mohammed R Mourtaja

I have always known that air pollution is dangerous for us. However, this might be my first time seeing what kind of issues it imposes on us. It is significant. It is scary. It should be dealt with very quickly.
One of the things that astonished me was that in 1991 in one country, Australia, the cost of Asthma is 600 million Dollars. This is only one disease in one country, but the cost of it is incredibly huge. It is directly related to air pollution.
PM is a key ingredient of polluted air and is estimated to kill more than 500,000 people each year. Car exhaust, road dust, smokestacks, forest fires, windblown soil, volcanic emissions, and sea spray are key sources for PM. What is interesting is that if we look closer at the above sources, we can observe most of them would increase because of climate change. In addition, the government currently does not regulate the most dangerous kind of PM. PM kills 500,000 people each year, so I could see this number is only can get higher and higher each year especially when there is no action to end climate change.
Moreover, we see how less educated people are more likely to be affected by air pollution. As we know, a higher percentage of this group exists in low-income countries. This raises the sentence we repeatedly talk about in the class: Why should be the least responsible for climate change bear the cost of climate change?

I watched a documentary about the EPA under the Trump administration. I was shocked that someone with no knowledge on the environment, or climate change lead the EPA. I am worried that the US would keep electing officials who still deal with climate change as it is a political opponent. This is a critical time to act against climate change, but the US is not doing what the most powerful country is supposed to do. I hope that this does not continue. As we saw in the IPCC report, if we do not act by 2027, there is a big possibility of never reaching even a middle CRD.

Izzy Koziol

I appreciated the first two articles particularly for their focus on topics that have not previously been explored in related literature. I was perplexed by the first article about the impact of exposure to air pollution on cognitive performance because while I have been aware of the adverse effects of poor air quality and the contributions to increased illness, hospitalization, and mortality, I have not previously learned about the effects on cognition. The article outlined three main findings, all of which are highly concerning. The first two findings were that air pollution inhibited test performances, and the damage of air pollution on cognitive performance is more sizable when using a longer window of exposure measure. These two findings speak to how essential and time sensitive the issue of air pollution is, because there are severe damages to cognition that become worse with more exposure to air pollution. The last finding was that air pollution exposure seems to exert a more negative effect on verbal than math test performance, which becomes stronger as people age, especially for less educated men. This is concerning because people affected by this become disadvantaged in attempts to make important decisions about their lives, and they even become less equipped to make simple day to day decisions. The aging population should not have to live in fear that the air quality will cause their brains to deteriorate, so governments need to aid poor cities with bad air pollution in efforts to remedy this issue.

Grace A Stricklin

I found these articles particularly interesting since, so far, we have been mainly looking at directly environmental and broadly societal impacts of pollution, but they focused on individual health outcomes of those exposed to air pollutants. All of the articles seemed to agree that air pollution has negative effects on general health and some of the more specific results were also quite intriguing. One article noted that the negative effects seem to be more pronounced in less educated men than in women and another noted that those who already have respiratory problems, like asthma, also experience more negative outcomes due to air pollution. The fact that less educated men face more harm due to air pollution definitely has policy implications; this seems to indicate that we should be more aware of the specific geopolitical areas in which we focus on air pollution policy and should perhaps focus more on less developed countries. These readings also indicate that policy could also attempt to generate more protections for those who have preexisting respiratory conditions who currently live in areas with high levels of air pollution. Overall, these articles tend to suggest that change in the way we deal with air pollution is necessary to protect the health of everyone who is exposed to it and that this change needs to happen soon. This set of readings seemed slightly less helpless to me than some of the others we have read, perhaps because they did not all go into detail about exactly what needs to be changed or perhaps because I am used to being presented with difficult to solve medical problems, but nevertheless I am hopeful that our society will soon be ready to make actual progress in the ways in which we address air pollution.

Trip Wright

These three articles were unique with their approach to understanding the real health impacts of air pollution across the world. I was most intrigued by the first article, authored by Zhang. A fair amount of information has been pushed citing the physical health risks of increased particulate matter (PM) in the atmosphere: mainly impacting our lungs, airways, and gas exchange. However, Zhang, et al, looked at the cognitive and mental impacts of exposure to air pollution in China and the results were shocking. They determined that long-term exposure to air pollution impedes cognitive performance in both verbal and mathematical tests. This conclusion can be extrapolated to suggest that premature cognitive decline will occur in older populations due to air pollution. I enjoy most when such articles go beyond the limits of their respective study and "connect the dots" between findings and social impact. Zhang, et all, clarified that even though their study occurred in China, the results are exclusive. Rather, the top 20 most polluted cities are in developing countries, and almost all of the cities in low and middle-income countries–with more than 100,000 residents–fail to meet WHO air quality guidelines; thus, the results (decreased cognitive performance as a result of exposure to air pollution) become a global issue.
I failed to consider the larger political and economic consequences of such cognitive changes in humans, yet the impact of air pollution will generate large health and social costs. Specifically, Alzheimer's, an already $226 billion dollar health service industry, is likely to increase (as is dementia). Also, the general elderly population depends on choice-making at older ages due to important end-of-life decisions or completing run-of-the-mill chores.
Optimistically, the study suggested that, in China, if the country were to cut the annual mean concentration of PM–smaller than 10μm to the EPA's 50μm/m^3 standard then cognitive skills would rise to the 63rd and 58th percentile for verbal and math, respectively, from the current median. Not only is air pollution harming our bodies physically, but there is a very severe, very real mental side of the card, which ought to add urgency to passing legislation to mitigate CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases.

Matthew Todd

The paper related to air quality's impact on cognitive function in China was interesting and confirms the impact that exposure to pollutants can have on humans. Living in areas with clean air should not be a "privilege"- instead of an expectation. Similar results have been observed in the United States with children exposed to vehicle pollutants via highway approximation performing worse on cognitive tests. I was interested in the gender gap observed in the China Study, which grows as people age. I'm curious whether that might be due to men being exposed to additional pollutants (possibly in the workplace?) or if that has something to do with cognitive differences between the genders.

In order to mitigate this exposure, there should ideally be fewer pollutants which can be accomplished by changing the incentive structure with policy. An alternative could be better zoning to direct the pollutants away from residential areas. Of course, lessening the immediate negative impacts of the pollutants by directing them away from people would not eliminate all the negative environmental impacts of the pollutants.

A Facebook User

The Pnas article entitled, "The impact of exposure to air pollution on cognitive performance" provided a very interesting look into the cognitive effects of air pollution of the human brain. The main things I found to be very interesting in the article were when it talked about the difference in effects on men and women as well as the differences shown in math and verbal scores. I do not understand entirely why verbal skills may be more subject to impairment than math skills due to air pollution. Is there a different neuropathway for verbal communications that is more susceptible being tampered with? While this came to a surprise to me, the difference in effects on gender was an even more shocking thing to see. While I understand men and women are not the same entirely, I would have thought that when it comes to exposure to certain elements men and women would have the same response. Even though the difference in effects between men and women was not as significant as the difference between math and verbal scores, I find it surprising that gender plays a significant role in the equation.

Alice Chen

The paper I found the most interesting was on the impact of air pollution in China on cognitive performance. It's pretty clear that air pollution leads to tons of health issues, as illustrated in the Air Pollution-Related Illnesses article, and can lead to mental health problems when people are often stuck indoors. However, cognitive health was something I never thought could be affected. Seeing that there is evidence that air pollution can impede cognitive performance older and less educated men made me believe that this could be another case where the poor end up taking more of the consequences related to pollution. I wish the article went deeper into the background of some of the cities studied. It would be interesting to see where specific cities are located, the types of jobs people tend to do take in the cities, and the amount of time people spend outdoors. For instance, larger cities like Shanghai and Beijing (which are much wealthier and have an influx of wealthier people) tend to spent more time on minimizing air pollution. Smaller cities unfortunately have more factories and tend to find themselves emitting a lot more pollution. A deeper dive of this could further highlight how air pollution has a detrimental impact on marginalized communities and impacts those older and less educated men.
Reading this article also reminded me of my time living in Shanghai. While AQI has improved significantly in the past few years, I recall that many of my elementary/middle School recesses were spent indoors because the AQI was 200+ or 300+, the levels that were deemed unsafe to play outside. It made me wonder how others who weren't as fortunate as me had to live when the AQI was much higher and that they had fewer resources like air purifiers and masks to wear.

Jacob McCabe

I thought the article on particulate matter was interesting because I am using pm2.5 and pm10 as variables in my econometrics empirical project. We are investigating the correlation between monthly Covid-19 mortality and air pollutants in the United States. I had some idea that these air particles were extremely dangerous but this paper gave me a host of information on PM that will be useful in my project. The paper discussing the impact of air pollution on cognitive ability also gave some interesting information about the ways that the things we may not think about affect such important things. It plays into conversation we had last semester in development economics about poverty traps, where higher rates of negative externalities through activities in developing countries continue to suppress their growth. This is hard evidence that shows how unhealthy air quality can affect the production of human capital and in turn, the development prospects of a country.

Merritt McCaleb

Last semester, I took a course on poverty (POV 101 with Professor Pickett), and we watched a video about and read an article by Patrick Sharkey, in which he discussed neighborhoods and multi-generational effects. He highlights how living in low-income neighborhoods creates vast implications for its members. While air pollution and its adverse effects weren’t his central talking point, he did address how such neighborhoods are characterized by poor education systems, little social opportunities, and low air quality. Further, there is little chance for upward social mobility, as Sharkey points out that the children who are currently exposed to low-quality neighborhoods typically come from families that experienced the same disadvantages in their own neighborhoods.
With the aforementioned knowledge in mind, I found the three articles assigned for today to be, while interesting, rather disturbing. Clearly, air pollution is dangerous, but it was frightening reading about how the studies and research illustrated the extent to which it imposes harsh consequences on our health. As the article titled “The Impact of Exposure of Air Pollution on Cognitive Performance” reiterates, long-term exposure to air pollution significantly “impedes cognitive performance in verbal and math tests.” Further, the cognitive damage caused by air pollution yields “substantial health and economic costs,” which would greatly impact everyone affected.
The third article discusses air pollution-related illnesses and the effects of particles, which originate from “sources such as vehicle exhaust, road dust, smokestacks, etc.” Realistically, I understand that vehicle exhaust and road dust contribute to air pollution, but as someone who has always lived in Dallas, it’s easy to sort of ignore the consequences that air pollution brings. I just don’t think about it on the day-to-day. Therefore, like the article mentioned, not only should health impacts of PM prompt further research, but public concern about this issue must increase, as people must understand the dangers that air pollution yields.

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