LIVING in a polluted area increases the risk of kids experiencing severe mental conditions, a study suggests.
Kids exposed to filthy air were up to 72 per cent more likely to report having a psychotic experience.
Fumes from traffic and factories have previously been linked to heart disease, cancer and dementia.
Now researchers from King’s College London say these toxins may fuel mental illness too.
They quizzed 2,062 18-year-olds and examined pollution levels near their homes.
Some 30 per cent reported having at least one psychotic experience since the age of 12.
This includes hearing voices or feeling they were being followed, watched or spied on.
These were more common among teens with higher levels of annual exposure to pollution.
The lethal cocktail contains nitrogen oxides (NOX), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and tiny particles (PM2.5).
Those with the most exposure to NOX were 72 per cent more likely to suffer than those with the least.
Figures for NO2 and PM2.5 were 71 per cent and 45 per cent, respectively.
Experts believe the toxins pass from the lung, into the blood and cause inflammation in the brain.
Psychotic experiences are less extreme forms of symptoms experienced by schizophrenics.
Young people who have them are more likely to develop mental health problems as an adult.
Study leader Dr Joanne Newbury said: “Global efforts are needed to reduce air pollution levels and protect the mental and physical health of young urban citizens.”
Colleague Dr Helen Fisher said: “Psychotic disorders are difficult to treat and place a huge burden on individuals, families, health systems and society more broadly.
“By improving our understanding of what leads to psychotic experiences in adolescence, we can attempt to deal with them early and prevent people from developing psychotic disorders.”
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And Prof Frank Kelly said: “Children and young people are most vulnerable to the health impacts of air pollution owing to the juvenility of the brain and respiratory system.”
Air pollution causes 64,000 deaths a year in the UK and is now a bigger killer globally than smoking.
The findings are published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
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