An invisible risk factor behind the leading cause of blindness

Today, I’m going to bring things full circle and share a study that touches on all of the topics we’ve covered this week… and more specifically, one that exposes yet another devastating risk of air pollution. 

It’s a risk that you might have never seen coming, either—no pun intended.  

Recent research suggests that air pollution doesn’t just take toll on your lungs, but also your vision… 

Higher exposure, higher risk 

According to new long-term research, air pollution raises your risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD)—a leading cause of irreversible blindness. 

Researchers looked at data from nearly 116,000 participants of the U.K. Biobank study, all between the ages of 40 and 69 years, and none with any eye problems to speak of when the study started in 2006.  

Subjects were instructed to report any formal AMD diagnoses. Researchers also examined structural eye changes related to AMD in more than 52,000 participants between 2009 and 2012, using retinal imaging.  

They also evaluated subjects’ air pollution exposure—measures included particulate matter (PM 2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and nitrogen oxides (NOx), as provided by the Small Area Health Statistics Unit.  

The data relied on official details of traffic, land use, and topography to calculate average air pollution levels at each subject’s home address.   

Ultimately, results showed that people who lived in areas with higher levels of fine particulate matter were also more likely to report an AMD diagnosis. (Rates were eight percent higher among those with the most exposure, compared to those with the least.) And this was after accounting for key factors, like underlying conditions or lifestyle.   

Not only that, but nearly all forms of air pollution had links to structural eye changes related to AMD. 

These findings appeared recently in the British Journal of Ophthalmology. And while they’re only observational—meaning they don’t prove that pollution actually causes AMD—given all the evidence out there, it’s not exactly a stretch.  

Car exhaust doubles the danger 

As you know, this isn’t the first time air pollution has been tied to serious health problems—and AMD in particular. 

In fact, you might recall another study I shared not too long agoin which a team of Taiwanese researchers linked long-term exposure to pollutants from car exhaust with a higher risk of AMD.   

After calculating average annual exposure to NO2 and carbon monoxide—and then accounting for factors like age, sex, income, and underlying illness—researchers found that subjects with the highest exposure to these traffic pollutants were nearly twice as likely to develop the eye disease. 

Ultimately, the highest rate of new AMD diagnoses was among people living with the greatest exposure to carbon monoxide—which is the same killer chemical found in cigarette smoke. And that’s pretty scary, when you consider just how many of us are exposed to these air pollutants every single day, simply by being city-dwellers. 

Sure, we may not be dealing with the smog of the ‘70s anymore. But make no mistake—many parts of the world are. And with the dismantling of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that’s happened here in the U.S., it might not be long until we’re right back where we started. 

But that doesn’t mean that you’re completely helpless in the face of this threat. In fact, I wrote an entire feature on how to protect yourself from the dangers of air pollution—both indoors and out—in the February 2020 issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives. So as always, if you haven’t already, consider becoming a subscriber todayClick here now! 


“Air pollution linked to higher risk of sight loss from AMD.” Science Daily, 01/25/2021. (