Clean air leads to clearer thinking

Clean air leads to clearer thinking

Air pollution doesn’t just affect your heart and lungs. Its dangers affect our thinking, too. Let’s take a look at chess, the brainiest of games.

Researchers from several institutions measured air pollution at the venues of a German chess tournament over several years. They then used a computer program to analyze whether the players made weak moves or mistakes.

You don’t have to sit alongside the interstate to be affected by pollution. Indoor air quality is a significant health threat, too.

Scientists discovered that pollution — namely fine particulate matter in the air — appeared to diminish chess play. Indeed, the more pollution, the worse it got.

The study showed the odds of making an error increased by 2% with a modest increase in indoor air pollution. The consequences of these chess mistakes were more significant, with almost 11% of these poor moves being game-changing. As air pollution increased, the odds of an error or a game-changing gaffe rose as well.

This particulate matter is generally produced by burning, with the internal combustion engine being a major culprit. Other contributors include power plants, forest fires and wood-burning stoves.

This pollution is estimated to lead to 4 million premature deaths worldwide each year from cancer, heart disease and other ailments.

The findings add to growing evidence that pollution can lead to changes in our intellectual powers. Researchers note they looked at chess. But office workers face the same threat.

So, it’s not just your opponent’s queen you are battling in a match. You’re also potentially playing against a sea of invisible particulates that mess with your head.


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