Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

New Study Links Air Pollution to Dementia

Health + Wellness
Pexels

There's no question that air pollution is bad for your body, from lung cancer to heart disease. Even President Trump's coal-friendly U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) admits that dirty air can increase adverse health effects and cause death.

Now, researchers from Arizona State University have determined another air pollution risk: dementia.


The new paper, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, compared fifteen years of Medicare records for 6.9 million older adults with the EPA's air quality data. They tested whether these individuals' onset of dementia was correlated with long-term exposure to tiny pollution particles known as PM2.5.

Indeed, the researchers found that a 1 microgram-per-cubic-meter (μg/m³) increase of PM2.5 over the course of a decade increases a person's odds of receiving a dementia diagnosis by 1.3 percentage points.

PM2.5, which is particulate matter with a length of 2.5 microns or less, is often a cocktail of toxins from power plants, automobiles and other industrial sources.

The World Health Organization has PM2.5 guidelines of 10 μg/m³—a threshold that 95 percent of the world's population does not meet.

The good news is that average PM2.5 concentrations have decreased in the U.S. from 13.5 μg/m³ in 2000 to 8.0 μg/m³ in 2017, thanks to the EPA's strict air pollution regulations.

As the paper was authored by economists, they concluded that air pollution regulations have helped the U.S. save money to the tune of $150 billion since the year 2000, as Slate noted from the study.

The bad news is the Trump administration could roll back these protections. Last month, in efforts to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan that regulates coal plants, EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler released the "Affordable Clean Energy Rule," which projects 470 and 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030 due to increased rates of PM2.5.

Other studies have found a link between air pollution and damage to the brain. A study in May suggested that many heavy metals found in the air may make it into brain tissue, and those pollutants are activating genes that may lead to cancers or neurodegenerative disorders. Additionally, a China-based study published last month found that high levels of toxic air "is equivalent to having lost a year of education."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana has been converted to a 1,000-bed field hospital for coronavirus patients to alleviate stress on local hospitals. Chris Graythen / Getty Images

An area in Louisiana whose predominantly black and brown residents are hard-hit by health problems from industry overdevelopment is experiencing one of the highest death rates from coronavirus of any county in the United States.

Read More Show Less
A woman lies in bed with the flu. marka/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A central player in the fight against the novel coronavirus is our immune system. It protects us against the invader and can even be helpful for its therapy. But sometimes it can turn against us.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Several flower species, including the orchid, can recover quickly from severe injury, scientists have found. cunfek / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Calling someone a delicate flower may not sting like it used to, according to new research. Scientists have found that many delicate flowers are actually remarkably hearty and able to bounce back from severe injury.

Read More Show Less
A Boeing 727 flies over approach lights with a trail of black-smoke from the engines on April 9, 2018. aviation-images.com / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

With global air travel at a near standstill, the airline industry is looking to rewrite the rules it agreed to tackle global emissions. The Guardian reports that the airline is billing it as a matter of survival, while environmental activists are accusing the industry of trying to dodge their obligations.

Read More Show Less
A National Guard member works on election day at a polling location on April 7, 2020 in Madison, Wisconsin. Andy Manis / Getty Images.

ByJulia Baumel

The outbreak of COVID-19 across the U.S. has touched every facet of our society, and our democracy has been no exception.

Read More Show Less