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Don't Scramble the Signal

Air pollution can have complex outcomes. We know how respiratory disorders are worsened by specific pollutants. But that is not all. A new study on mice shows that the exposure to air pollution can result in dramatic increase in impatience. Bharati Chaturvedi reports.

india Updated: Mar 11, 2013 00:45 IST

Air pollution can have complex outcomes. We know how respiratory disorders are worsened by specific pollutants. But that is not all. A new study on mice shows that the exposure to air pollution can result in dramatic increase in impatience.

It isn't as simple as it sounds. The study by a Dr JL Allen and his team, forced one group of baby mice to inhale the kind of ultra-fine pollution that comes from car exhaust. Another group inhaled filtered air. When these baby mice grew up, they were clearly very impatient, a trait measured by how they could not wait for a treat, and tried arduous ways to get these. But in particular, it was only mice exposed as babies who turned out to be impatient, suggesting that these chemicals acted on the developing brain to create such personalities. Typically, mice are used in experiments because they are accurately able to suggest impacts on human beings.

This is alarming as most of the Indian cities are polluted. What is the impact on children? Will they grow into road-raged, stressed out, impatient people, unable to function without constant validation? How will it impact human transactions in the future?

What we need to know is that air pollution, in large part due to vehicular pollution, can impact the future in fundamental ways. Indians must simply cut down on SUVs, cars and driving. Our policy makers must make it harder to own these and invest in safe, efficient public transport across urban India. We can't allow our creature comforts to scramble our brains.