Smoggy Lahore and Brain Fog

Brain Fog can be discerned in the rising statistics of depression

Muhammad Wajahat Sultan December 08, 2022
The writer is a UET graduate and holds Master’s degrees from Sargodha University and Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad. He can be contacted at


In the 20th Century, mankind fought to win the right to vote as it was the biggest challenge. In the 21st Century, mankind has achieved the democratic franchise and fundamental rights including free and fair trials. The demand and nature of rights have changed in the 21st Century — the century of ecological fallout and atmospheric crisis. It is not the military invasions that threaten humanity now, but the health hazards from air pollution. In the 21st Century, it must be a fundamental and constitutionally codified right for human beings to have access to healthy air. The polluted air is draining the energies and psychological balance of human beings in urban spaces. As Lahore, the second biggest country of Pakistan, is ever on top slots on the bad air index, a good number of its citizens suffer from breathing problems. However, the contaminated air not just causes respiratory illnesses, but can also drive human beings to suicidal ideation and heart-related diseases. The provision of healthy air in metropolitan cities must be incorporated into the category of basic rights.

Claudia Persico and David Marcotte of the American University, in Washington, recently hypothesised that poor air quality can impact people’s mood in an adverse manner, which can even enhance suicidal ideation. The wind-related schemes should feature an average of 35 micrograms per cubic meter but in fog and wind pollution, fine particulate matter — named PM2.5 — cross the level of 35 micrograms per cubic meter which is damaging as regards maintaining the normal moods of human beings. Contaminated air decreases the fine particulate matter and when this air enters into people’s lungs, it worsens their moods and causes a shift in attitudes and behaviours to the extent of triggering suicidal tendencies.

Brain Fog is an emerging phenomenon in the 21st Century. In Lahore, it can be discerned in the rising statistics of depression across the universities; people have less energy and pleasure at the workplace. All these tendencies are categorised into Brain Fog which worsens due to unhealthy air and pollution. The dirty air in the cities drains the energies of citizens, consequently decreasing their dedication and commitment to work. These all are effects of PM2.5 pollution that are translated through the organs and also harm the brain and mood regulatory mechanisms.

Polluted air decreases the response of the brain in the form of higher cytokines release due to the inflammation of the organs in response to the contaminated air. This protein also harms the part of the brain that regulates moods. The constant phenomenon of fog in Lahore and Karachi over the last two to three years is a paramount national threat for Pakistan. If this phenomenon is not treated with considerable policy orientation, the citizens will face a pandemic of depression and despair, besides respiratory and inflammatory illnesses. Apart from the health-related dimensions, the smog can halt citizens’ day-to-day activities and delay in work due to blockage of roads and citizens’ decreasing accessibility.

Coming to the solution, the government should regulate the Scope 1 emissions that are directly caused by companies in the form of burning fuel near Lahore. Secondly, in 2023, we should work on the introduction of Synfuels and e-fuels (electro fuels) in metropolitan cities like Lahore and Karachi. Synfuels are an alternate for traditional hydrocarbon fuels and are produced through artificial techniques. Moreover, e-fuels can be utilised in coming years to combat the existential threat of fog. This type of e-fuels is produced through renewable energy. Finally, the ‘15-minute city’ and ‘vertical living’ is a good infrastructure development design to combat the fog in future.

The provision of healthy air is the fundamental right of citizens. The government must initiate policy-making for future by considering due importance of health, ensuring healthy air for citizens.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2022.

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