Study Shows Link between Air Pollution and Sight Loss

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. irreversible / ˌɪr ɪˈvɜr sə bəl / (adj) – unable to be changed or undone

    The doctor said that the procedure may have irreversible effects on his body.

  2. glaucoma / glɔˈkoʊ mə / (n) – a group of eye conditions that result from unusually high fluid pressure in the eye

    The patient was diagnosed with glaucoma.

  3. pollutant / pəˈlut nt / (n) – a substance that makes something, such as land, air, or water, dirty and harmful

    Factory smoke is a common source of air pollutants.

  4. prone / proʊn / (adj) – likely to experience something

    Research says that people who don’t get enough sleep are prone to diabetes.

  5. bloodstream / ˈblʌdˌstrim / (n) – the blood flowing around one’s body

    The medicine was injected into the patient’s bloodstream.


Read the text below.

Researchers from the United Kingdom have found that air pollution can cause irreversible sight loss.

Previous studies focused on how polluted air is associated with some eye diseases such as glaucoma and cataracts. The current study is the first to examine the link between air pollution and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of irreversible loss of vision in old age.

To conduct the study, the researchers obtained data from the UK Biobank, a large-scale health database.  They used information from around 116,000 participants between 40 and 69 years old who did not have eye problems at the start of the study. The researchers compared the participants’ eye examination results available in the database to the levels of air pollution at their homes. Data about weight and smoking habits was also used by the team.

Results showed that the participants who had more exposure to tiny air pollutants were more prone to developing AMD.

Paul Foster, the study’s lead author, said that very small particles enter the body through the lungs, then travel to different organs via the bloodstream. According to Foster, because the human eye has high blood flow, it is very vulnerable to damage caused by these tiny particles.

One professor noted that the current research is similar to a previous study done in Taiwan in 2019, which also supported the link between sight loss and air pollution.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• How bad do you think air pollution is in your area? Discuss.
• From now on, will you do anything to make sure that you have less exposure to tiny air pollutants (e.g. always wear a mask, clean the house regularly)? Discuss.

Discussion B

• Are there environmental problems in your country that are affecting the health of people? Discuss.
• What other environmental issues linked to human health would you like scientists to study about? Discuss.