A recent study indicates that air pollution may increase the chance of developing dementia. The health of people of all ages is at increased risk from breathing polluted air.
According to new research, people over 50 years old have a 40% greater risk of developing dementia in areas that have the highest levels of nitrogen oxide in the air compared to those areas with lowest levels of the pollutant.
Due to limitations of the observational study, it is not possible to establish whether air pollution is a direct cause of the dementia cases. However, a link was identified between higher pollution levels and higher levels of dementia diagnosis. The increased incidence of dementia in areas with high levels of air pollution could not be explained by other factors known to increase risk of the disease.
Air pollution has long been linked to cardiovascular and respiratory disease, but this is one of the first studies to establish a link with neurodegenerative illness. Scientists now believe that there is sufficient knowledge to add air pollution to the list of risk factors for the disease.
The link between poor air quality and dementia could begin early in life. Significant exposure to traffic related air pollution in young children may produce neuro-inflammation and altered brain innate immune responses in early adulthood.
Action to improve air quality
Advocates in the UK are campaigning the government to act on air pollution. Since road traffic is the leading cause of illness, advocates are pushing legislators to focus efforts on cleaning vehicle emissions to clean up the air. Campaigns are also calling for greater investment in alternatives to motor vehicles such as safer cycling infrastructure and improved public transportation.
Although air pollution levels has decreased over recent years, our health can’t wait until the sale of conventional diesel and petrol cars will be ended in 2040. It’s necessary for the government and industry to act swiftly to prevent an undue burden on our society’s health.
[via The Guardian]