Poor air quality affects not only people’s lungs, but long-term exposure to PM2.5 air pollutants — fine particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers or smaller — can increase the risks of insomnia, depression and dementia, a Taipei Medical University (TMU) study said.
A research team, led by TMU president Lin Chien-huang (林建煌), used “smart” wearable devices to monitor the effects of long-term exposure to higher PM2.5 concentration levels on sleep quality.
The team used the devices to monitor the sleep quality of 150 welders and compared the results with those of office workers, TMU School of Respiratory Therapy associate professor Chuang Hsiao-chi (莊校奇) said.
The PM2.5 concentration levels at welders’ job sites was as high as 2,500 micrograms per cubic meter, while office environments averaged about 35 micrograms per cubic meter, he said.
The welders slept an average of 6.6 hours every night, but woke up an average of 22 times during the night, while the office workers slept an average of 7.52 hours and woke up 15 times per night, Chuang said.
“We found that people who are exposed to high PM2.5 concentration levels at work have impaired lung function, increased oxidative stress and reduced urinary serotonin levels,” he said.
Serotonin is one of the most important chemicals for regulating sleep cycles, and changes in serotonin levels can affect sleep quality, Chuang added.
Increasing serotonin levels has been shown to improve sleep patterns, while low serotonin levels have been linked with higher risk of anxiety, depression, insomnia and even dementia, TMU Shuang Ho Hospital Department of Pulmonary Medicine director Lee Kang-yun(李岡遠) said.
Eating foods that contain tryptophan, such as milk, yogurt, chocolate, eggs, fish, beans and meat can boost serotonin levels, Lee said.
People should use smartphone apps to check air quality frequently and take precautionary measures, including wearing masks or avoiding outdoor activities when air quality is poor, Chuang added.
A Taipei veterinarian is urging pet owners to avoid using insecticides around their homes, as their ingredients can be toxic to pets. Commercial-grade insecticides contain pyrethroids — organic compounds similar to natural pyrethrins, pesticides produced by flowers such as chrysanthemums — in quantities that are harmless to humans, but potentially fatal to cats and dogs, Asian Veterinary Specialist Referral Center veterinarian Chua Man-ling (蔡曼琳) said. Even in small quantities, pyrethroids are hazardous to cats, as they lack the metabolic enzymes needed to process them, Chua said. Cockroach sprays and ant traps are especially dangerous to pets as they contain boric acid, she
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