Researchers Find Link Between Air Quality and Alzheimer’s Disease
Long-term study reveals that 16 percent of Swedish city’s dementia cases are likely related to air pollution
As scientists learn more about the consequences of air pollution, the list of health risks have been growing. Asthma and other respiratory diseases, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases have long been the top worries, but researchers in Sweden have now added a new – and equally troubling – condition to the list: Alzheimer’s Disease.
In a 15-year study, researchers from Umeå University, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and the Umeå Center for Functional Brain Imaging found a direct link between exposure to car emissions and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia among the population of Umeå, a city in northern Sweden with a population of approximately 120,000.
The study, published in July by Environmental Health Perspectives, can be found at http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1408322
Bertil Forsberg, professor of occupational and environmental medicine at Umeå University, told the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter that the researchers believed very small particles from traffic-related air pollution – specifically the nitrogen oxide found in vehicle exhaust – enters the brain through the olfactory nerve and causes direct damage.
This is a particular concern for those who live in more heavily polluted areas, since harmful outdoor air particles can easily enter the indoor environment in the absence of effective air filtration. Indeed, the study found that people who live in homes exposed to air pollution have a 40 percent greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia than those living in areas with cleaner air.
In Umeå, the researchers found a clear pattern between dementia and the air quality where study participants lived. In all, 16 percent of the city’s dementia cases were likely related to exposure to vehicle exhaust.
While the problem – and risks – of air pollution can’t be beaten overnight, relatively simple steps can be taken to reduce the harm. With effective air filters, dangerous particles can be removed from the indoor air – boosting both the health and the comfort of those who live or work inside the buildings.
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As researchers learn more about air pollution, the risks and concerns are increasing. But at the same time, so are the ways to tackle them. With innovative, industry-leading filters in place, we can all, literally, breath a sigh of relief.
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