Different studies have found that while deteriorating air quality impacts overall health, it also causes cognitive decline and increases the risk of Alzheimer's. This is confirmed by a new study published in the journal 'Brain'.
Dr Andrew Petkus, Co-Author of the study, has pointed out that this is the first study to really show, in a statistical model, that air pollution is linked with changes in people’s brain and that those changes are connected with declines in memory performance.
The researchers studied the data of 998 female participants between 73 and 78 years of age. The participants had undergone up to two brain scans, five years apart as part of a larger study.
The researchers gave each brain scan a cognitive decline score by using a machine learning model that used data from brain scans of people with Alzheimer’s.
The researchers then combined this information with data on where the participants lived, and with information on levels of pollution in those areas. The latter measure allowed the researchers to roughly determine the participants’ degree of exposure to particulate matter 2.5.
The particulate matter enters ambient air through traffic exhaust fumes and smoke. It can remain airborne for a long time and is easily inhalable, which means that it can accumulate in unhealthy amounts in people's bodies — including inside the brain.
The researchers found that the higher a person's exposure to fine particle pollution, the likelier they were to experience cognitive function impairments, such as problems with memory.