We all know pollution is bad—for us and for the planet. For our eyes in particular, the evidence is mounting against air pollution from heavy traffic. Last year, researchers found diesel exhaust exposure can damage conjunctival epithelial cells.1 Now, new findings show traffic-related air pollution can wreak havoc on our retinas too.2

Using insurance databases, researchers in Taiwan followed 39,819 subjects at least age 50 or older, all of whom had no signs of AMD at baseline and lived in areas that had air-quality monitoring stations. During 11 years of follow up, 1,442 developed the condition. The researchers divided those patients by their level of exposure to traffic pollution and found those with the most exposure were a whopping 84% more likely to develop AMD than those with the least exposure. And this was after adjusting for other potential factors such as age, gender, household income and underlying illnesses.

While an intriguing finding, the researchers admit the observational nature of the study can only provide an association, not causation.

1. Lasagni Vitar RM, Tau J, Janezic NS, et al. Diesel exhaust particles (DEP) induce an early redox imbalance followed by an IL-6 mediated inflammatory response on human conjunctival epithelial cells. Exp Eye Res. 2018 Jun;171:37-47.

2. Chan K-H, H P-Y, Lin C-J, et al. Traffic-related air pollutants increase the risk for age-related macular degeneration. J Invest Med. August 19, 2019.