Researchers say that long term exposure to pollutants from vehicle exhaust is linked to a heightened risk of the common eye condition, age related macular degeneration or AMD.
AMD is a neuro-degenerative condition that affects the middle part of the retina, known as the macula which is one of the most common causes of poor vision in older people and is most likely caused by an interplay between genetic and environmental risk factors.
According to a study, published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine, exposure to the highest levels of air pollutants was associated with an almost double risk among those aged 50 and older.
Researchers from Asia University in Taiwan analyzed national health insurance and air quality data from 1998 to 2010 to see if there might be a link between long term exposure to the pollutants nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide and a heightened risk of AMD.
The researchers focused on 39,819 people aged 50 and above as the condition is more common among older age groups.
Reports say that a total of 1,442 people developed the cases of AMD during the monitoring period. The report also says that those with the highest level of exposure to nitrogen dioxide were nearly twice as likely 91 per cent to develop AMD than those exposed to the lowest level. Those exposed to the highest level of carbon monoxide were 84 per cent more likely to develop AMD than those exposed to the lowest levels.
The study has implicated nitrogen dioxide in cardiovascular and neurological ill health according to researchers and as the retina is part of the central nervous system, there is a plausible biological explanation for its vulnerability to this pollutant.