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Do you live in with poor air quality and have a tween in the household ?

Let’s start the conversation by being inclusive, which to us means your children’s exposure to both the home and school air in addition to the outside areas. there has been an increasing number of reports of teens and depression rates going significantly higher, especially with the impact of COVID. But a new study looked at air pollution as a potential additional factor triggering tween depression for younger Americans,.

Their study in Developmental Psychology, enrolled 213 tweens aged 9 to 13 years old living in the San Francisco Bay Area, of California. The researchers tracked the tweens’ mental health for four years and monitored data on the air quality where they lived. They specifically analyzed the kids’ exposure to ozone, which is a chemical reaction that occurs when air pollution and sunlight interact. Their analysis found that the adolescents who lived in areas with higher levels of ozone developed far higher rates of depression.

It doesn’t take much ozone exposure to make a psychological impact, as one of the key aspects of their study’s findings is that even when the pollution didn’t exceed the EPA’s air quality standards higher levels of depression were present.


Ground-level ozone – what we typically breathe – is formed primarily from photochemical reactions between two major classes of air pollutants, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).  These reactions have traditionally been viewed as depending upon the presence of heat and sunlight, resulting in higher ambient ozone concentrations in summer months.   Ozone contributes to what we typically experience as “smog” or haze.

The majority of ground-level ozone is the result of reactions of man-made  volatile  organic chemicals (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Significant sources of VOCs are chemical plants, gasoline pumps, oil-based paints, auto body shops, and print shops. Nitrogen oxides result primarily from high temperature combustion. Significant sources are power plants, industrial furnaces and boilers, and ….. big surprise motor vehicles.

Air pollution is a combination of many components, from particulates to nitrous oxides and ozone. These all contribute to a number of physical ailments affecting your lungs to your heart and circulatory system. Commonly asthma to cardiovascular disease are some of the most impactful disorders that are common in inner cities and areas with higher air pollution.

Although the study did not look at the underlying chemical changes they theorize that ozone could be increasing inflammation in the body. Studies have correlated ozone exposure with many symptoms including fatigue, changes to skin, anxiety, weight issues and now depression.

This study and the work regarding the other common air pollutants give more credence and urgency to make your indoor air as breathable as possible…. as soon as possible.

Take Aways:

  • Have a tween with depression…..go to a clean air area (parks and other green spaces are a great start)
  • Studies like this can also help us take steps to improve the mental health of future generations by limiting their exposure to ozone on days when it’s particularly high.
  • Check your air quality by testing and know what you and the family are breathing
  • Add quality air filters (MERV 11-13) or a free-standing air cleaning device
  • Living further away from high traffic areas reduces your exposure to ozone.