Macular Degeneration Caused By Car Exhaust?

Macular Degeneration Caused By Car Exhaust?

New research shows how long term exposure to car exhaust can increase your chances of developing macular degeneration. Air pollution has been a major health concern in places like Beijing China, however in the United States air quality is cleaner due to strict environmental regulations. Now that the current American leadership is lifting many of these regulations, Americans are becoming more at risk.  

No researchers have ever connected vehicle exhaust with AMD (age-related macular degeneration). Most risks associated with poor air quality have been associated with respiratory problems and cardiovascular disease. Recently, scientists from Taiwan conducted an 11-year comparison between air pollution and AMD linking how your eyes might be affected by heavy airborne particulates that, over time, infiltrate and break down the macula. 

Find out the latest AMD research results and some ways you might be able to protect your vision from the ravages of accumulated car exhaust pollution. 

AMD Car Exhaust Findings

You wouldn’t think that living, working, or just being around vehicles would be dangerous to your sight. Most people, as mentioned, are more concerned about their lungs which may prompt you to hold your breath while walking behind a city bus. Yet, over time, these pollutants can take a toll on your vision.

The recent study by Taiwanese scientists, published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine as reported by Earth News, stated that,

“…the researchers analyzed ten years of data from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Program between 2000 and 2010 and calculated nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide exposure for 39,819 individuals aged 50 or older between 1998 and 2010. The majority of participants enrolled in the study lived in urbanized areas and of the 39,819 individuals, 1,442 developed AMD at some point during the monitoring period.”

Specialty Medical Dialogues continues the assessment of this study showing the hazards of the two most dangerous car exhaust compounds, carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen dioxide, on human vision,

“After taking account of potentially influential factors, such as age, sex, household income, and underlying illnesses, those with the highest level of exposure to NO2 were nearly twice (91%) as likely to develop AMD as those exposed to the lowest level. And people who were exposed to the highest level of CO were 84% more likely to develop AMD than those exposed to the lowest level. The highest rate (5.8%) of newly diagnosed AMD was among people living in the area with the highest level of CO exposure.”

Overall, car exhaust can permeate your skin and orifices (eyes, ears, mouth, and nose) to infiltrate free radicals into your system. When these free radicals travel to the macula, over time, degeneration can occur. These findings are really no surprise as a variety of environmental factors are linked to the advancement of AMD. 

These include: 

  • Smoking (including secondhand smoke)
  • Pesticides
  • Sun exposure
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) from airborne chemicals (household cleaners, paint fumes, rug shampoos, etc.)

It is important to asses your car exhaust exposure and how it may be putting you in harm’s way.

Are You At Risk?

When it comes to the results of the Taiwanese study, living amongst accumulated car exhaust is a major factor. These are the top five American cities that have been linked to high levels of car exhaust pollution which easily permeate into neighboring towns and cities. So, you may not need to live in a city to be at risk.

  • Los Angeles
  • New York
  • Chicago 
  • San Francisco
  • Dallas

Internationally, these are the top cities inundated with car exhaust pollution, 

  • Lima, Peru 
  • Toronto, Canada
  • Bogota, Columbia
  • Manilla, Phillipines 
  • Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Shenyang, China

Determining where you live and how much exposure you have to car exhaust should give you a good idea of your risk factor. Protecting yourself will make all the difference no matter where you live as car exhaust is ubiquitous to just about everywhere on the planet, particularly the USA.

Precautionary Measures

Reducing the long term effects of car exhaust that could cause macular degeneration takes some pro-active precautionary measures. Talk to your doctor about your eye health and follow these protocols to keep your eyesight out of harm’s way.


Eating a diet rich in antioxidants as well as taking a daily supplement of antioxidants is essential to fighting free radicals that can threaten eye health. According to Doctor Lylas Mogk, internationally recognized expert on AMD and founding director of the Center for Vision Rehab and Research at the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan, “Almost every single one of the risk factors we have for macular degeneration can be linked to free radicals.”

Antioxidant rich foods include: 

  • Nuts (especially pecans) 
  • Grapes (purple, red, and blue)
  • Dark green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, collards)
  • Berries (raspberries, blueberries, goji berries, strawberries)

Look for a daily supplement that is specifically made for eye health. These supplements will contain the AREDS (age-related eye disease study) antioxidant formula which includes zeaxanthin, lutein, and beta-carotene.


Your eyes are front and center when exposed to the elements and if you can create a barrier with sunglasses, this can be excellent protection. 

WebRN reports, 

“Unprotected sun exposure produces free radicals, as does pesticides, car exhaust, cigarette smoke and household cleaners. The right sunglasses can not only protect our eyes, they can also enhance contrast and visibility.”

Do not use inexpensive sunglasses as these may not offer enough protection. Look for sunglasses that block all UVA, UVB, and UVC rays. Your glasses should be labeled 100% UV protection. Look for polarized lenses to reduce glare. To offer optimal protection, try wrap around sunglasses to protect side as well as front exposure. 

Avoid Car Exhaust

Stay vigilant when it comes to your exposure to car exhaust. Avoid walking near high traffic areas or keeping your windows open when around idling cars. Also, if possible, drive an electric vehicle (EV) to minimize your personal exposure as well as contributing to car exhaust pollution. 

Take care of your eyes to prevent macular degeneration caused by car exhaust. Being aware of these invisible risk factors is essential for maintaining good eye and overall systemic health. In addition, always stay on top of your eye appointments to monitor your vision just in case early intervention is needed.