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alt=a woman looks nervous about the amount of air pollution around her.

How Does Air Pollution Impact AMD?

We all know that smoking is bad for our eyes. Smoking is listed as a risk factor for age-related macular degeneration in just about every source I have ever seen.

Exposure to air pollution can lead to AMD

Now, my question is this: isn’t smoking just a form of air pollution? And it's the logic problem here. If smoking is air pollution and bad for your eyes, does it not stand to reason that just plain, old pollution is bad for your eyes, too? 1

Research on chronic pollution exposure

Yep. Makes sense to me. It also makes sense to Tunde Peto and the other researchers who recently published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

Dr. Peto shared in an interview that chronic exposure to air pollution can trigger or speed up the mechanisms that lead to age-related macular degeneration. In fact, the researchers found air pollution exposure led to an 8% higher risk for self-reported AMD. 1,2

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Dr. Peto was not just talking about air pollution from automobiles and industry. She was also talking about domestic air pollution such as that produced in cooking. (See? I knew there was a reason I never liked to cook!)

Oxidative stress and free radicals

The mechanism by which the damage is caused is purported to be oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. Free radicals are produced through normal metabolism. A free radical is a part of a molecule that got cast off during a chemical process.

An antioxidant is a molecule that has space to take in the free radical. Free radicals left to their own devices can wreak havoc, flying around and damaging cells. Antioxidants can bind these pieces of molecules and keep them from running amok in your body. Several years ago, I wrote a piece for that used the analogy of horses and stalls, and that - amazingly - I was told actually made sense. It might help your understanding to read it.

How do we reduce air pollution?

Be that as it may, all this free radical business is why people are always touting antioxidant foods such as blackberries and blueberries. Unfortunately, it is pretty much impossible to eat enough good stuff to eliminate free radicals, but that is a topic for another page.

So, how do we reduce air pollution to save our eyes? Don’t smoke, of course. Then there are all those things we are trying to do to clean our air in general. You know about smokestack scrubbers and catalytic converters, not to mention electric vehicles. But what about cleaning our inside air?

Sometimes keeping the air from getting “stale” and “stuffy” is as simple as opening a window. This is assuming the outside is fresher than the inside.

Basic maintenance ideas

Searching 25+ Easy and Effective Ways to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution can show you a whole list of others ideas. 25+, in fact! Some of them are basic maintenance, like checking how well your gas stove vents and the efficiency of your range hood. Others are to get rid of odors rather than just cover them with spray and removing shoes at the door.

After a long winter, it is always a good idea to air things out and freshen things up. Those stinky sneakers may not seem like such a big deal, but you never know. They may actually be hurting your eyes.

Avoiding air pollution might help your eyes... not to mention your nose!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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