Even Small Amounts of Particulate Matter Air Pollution Increases Dementia Risk: Study

The findings of new research highlights the dementia risk associated with exposure to air pollution, indicating that even small amounts of particulate matter can have a serious adverse effect on the brain.

A study published this month in the medical journal Environmental Health Perspectives adds to a growing body of research about the link between particular matter air pollution and dementia.

Researchers from the University of Washington evaluated the association between fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) exposure and an individual’s risk of developing dementia. They used data from the Adult Changes in Thought population-based prospective cohort study in Seattle and linked PM 2.5 exposures to participant addresses from 1978 to 2018.

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Overall, 1,136 cases of dementia developed among 4,166 individuals. Once a patient with dementia was identified, researchers compared the average pollution exposure of each participant leading up to the age when the patient was diagnosed with dementia.

The findings suggest that for each one microgram per cubic meter increase of the average PM 2.5 exposure over a 10 year period, an individual may face a 16% greater risk of dementia. There was a similar association for Alzheimer’s type dementia.

“Elevated long-term exposure to PM 2.5 was associated with increased hazard of all-cause dementia,” the researchers determined.

PM 2.5 is a type of air pollution made up of ultra-small particles of soot, dust and dirt smaller than 2.5 micrometers, or 70 times smaller than a single human hair. These particles are so small they can easily be inhaled into the lungs and lead to widespread side effects in the body.

Recent research indicates air pollution exposure not only affects the respiratory system, leading to conditions like asthma, but can also lead to stroke and cardiac arrest.

Other studies published last year focused on the impact exposure to particulate matter may have on increased the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s Disease. Even at low levels considered safe by regulators, air pollution exposure negatively impacts the health of elderly persons.



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