The Hidden Cost of Living in a Polluted City

You’d probably guess that air pollution is bad for your heart and lungs, but how about your eyes? According to scientists at the University College London, people who live in cities with high pollution levels are at least 6 percent more likely to develop glaucoma, a debilitating eye condition that can lead to irreversible blindness. And glaucoma is 50 percent more common in urban areas versus rural.

“Air pollution may cause inhaled particles to get into blood vessels,” says study co-author Paul Foster, a professor of glaucoma studies. The particles travel through the blood to nerves in the eyes, which can, over time, damage the retina. Other research found that even short exposure—think hours—can permanently damage and shrink blood vessels. If you live in a city with high air pollution, avoid exercising outdoors during peak pollution hours, choose parks over busy streets, and install a good air filter in your bedroom—after all, you spend a third of your day breathing the air in there.

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