The Real Cause of Dementia?

File photo. EU2016 NL, CC BY 2.0

“Those exposed to higher levels of air pollutants, [such as] nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter released by fossil fuel combustion, were significantly more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.”

Researchers Now Have Even More Proof That Air Pollution Can Cause Dementia

Aaron Ruben, May 2, 2019

| Mother Jones – A few years ago I stood in a cramped trailer beside the busy 110 freeway in Los Angeles as researchers at the University of Southern California gathered soot thrown off by vehicles pounding by just a few yards from their instruments, which rattled whenever a heavy truck passed.

I was there to learn about how scientists were beginning to link air pollution—from power plants, motor vehicles, forest fires, you name it—to one of the least understood and most frightening of illnesses: dementia.

At that time, the research implicating air pollution as one factor that can contribute to dementia was alarming, consistent, and, ultimately, “suggestive.”

Since then scientists have published a wave of studies that reveal that air pollution is much worse for us than we had previously imagined.

“Air pollution is just as bad as cigarette smoke … ”

The evidence is so compelling, in fact, that many leading researchers now believe it’s conclusive.

“I have no hesitation whatsoever to say that air pollution causes dementia,” says Caleb Finch, gerontologist and the leader of USC’s Air Pollution and Brain Disease research network, which has completed many of these new studies.

In terms of its effects on our health and welfare, Finch says, “air pollution is just as bad as cigarette smoke … ”

Those exposed to higher levels of air pollutants, particularly nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter released by fossil fuel combustion, were significantly more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease—the most common kind of dementia—than their otherwise demographically matched peers.

In total, Londoners exposed to the highest levels of air pollution were about one and a half times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s across the study period than their neighbors exposed to the lowest levels—a replication of previous findings from Taiwan, where air pollution levels are much higher. Read more. 

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