Young People in Polluted Cities at Greater Risk for Alzheimer's
University of Montana researcher Dr. Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas was part of a team that looked at the autopsies of 203 residents of Mexico City, which has daily ozone and particulate matter levels above U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.
The subjects they studied ranged in age from 11 months to 40 years, and the researchers found signs of Alzheimer's in 99.5 percent of them, including in less-than-a-year-old babies.
"Alzheimer's disease starting in the brainstem of young children and affecting 99.5% of young urbanites is a serious health crisis," the abstract of the study, published in Environmental Research on March 23, warned.
The researchers, who also included participants from the Universidad del Valle de México, the Instituto Nacional de Pediatría, Boise State University, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Médica Sur and the Universidad Autónoma de Piedras Negras, looked for two abnormal proteins linked to the development of Alzheimer's: hyperphosphorylated tau and beta amyloid. They found increased levels of both in the study's subjects.
"Alzheimer's disease hallmarks start in childhood in polluted environments, and we must implement effective preventative measures early," Calderón-Garcidueñas said in the University of Montana press release. "It is useless to take reactive actions decades later."
Researchers theorized that particulate matter increased Alzheimer's risk as it enters the brain through the gastrointestinal tract, nose and lungs. The circulatory system carries particulate matter throughout the body and damages barriers.
The study is not the first to suggest that air pollution is a risk for the brain, especially in children. A study published in March found brain abnormalities in school-aged children in the Netherlands whose mothers were exposed to particulate matter when they were pregnant, U.S. News and World Report reported. The abnormalities were linked to behavioral problems and impulse control and, crucially, occurred even when the pollution the mothers were exposed to was beneath levels determined safe by EU law.
"To me, air pollution is kind of the next lead, in a way," University of Rochester environmental medicine professor Deborah Cory-Slechta told Popular Science in early April.
Cory-Slechta was alerted to the brain problems caused by air pollution when colleagues using mice to study the impact of air pollution on lung development invited her to look at the mice's brains. She found damage in almost every part of the brains two months after pollution exposure had ended.
According to the Popular Science article, living in highly air polluted areas has been linked to poor memory, lower intelligence-test performance and behavioral problems.As the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health points out, Mexico City has made important strides in reducing air pollution since the World Health Organization found it the most polluted city in the world in 1992. However, the University of Montana study warns that it, and, indeed, every polluted city, still has more work to do to protect its children's brains.
By Gwen Ranniger
Fertility issues are on the rise, and new literature points to ways that your environment may be part of the problem. We've rounded up some changes you can make in your life to promote a healthy reproductive system.
Infertility and Environmental Health: The Facts<ul> <li>Sperm count is declining steeply, significantly, and continuously in Western countries, with no signs of tapering off. Erectile dysfunction is on the rise, and women are facing increasing rates of miscarriage and difficulty conceiving.</li><li>Why? A huge factor is our environmental health. Hormones (particularly testosterone and estrogen) are what make reproductive function possible, and our hormones are increasingly being negatively affected by harmful, endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonplace in the modern world—in our homes, foods, and lifestyles.</li></ul>
What You Can Do About It<p>It should be noted that infertility can be caused by any number of factors, including medical conditions that cannot be solved with a simple change at home.</p><p><em>If you or a loved one are struggling with infertility, our hearts and sympathies are with you. Your pain is validated and we hope you receive answers to your struggles.</em></p><p>Read on to discover our tips to restore or improve reproductive health by removing harmful habits and chemicals from your environment.</p>
Edit Your Health<ul><li>If you smoke, quit! Smoking is toxic, period. If someone in your household smokes, urge them to quit or institute a no-smoking ban in the house. It is just as important to avoid secondhand smoke.</li><li>Maintain a healthy weight. Make sure your caloric intake is right for your body and strive for moderate exercise.</li><li>Eat cleanly! Focus on whole foods and less processed meals and snacks. Studies have found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet is linked to increased fertility.</li><li>Minimize negative/constant stress—or find ways to manage it. Hobbies such as meditation or yoga that encourage practiced breathing are great options to reduce the physical toll of stress.</li></ul>
Edit Your Home<p>We spend a lot of time in our homes—and care that what we bring into them will not harm us. You may not be aware that many commonly found household items are sources of harmful, endocrine-disrupting compounds. Read on to find steps you can take—and replacements you should make—in your home.</p><p><strong>In the Kitchen</strong></p><ul> <li>Buy organic, fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/clean-grocery-shopping-guide-2648563801.html" target="_blank">Read our grocery shopping guide for more tips about food.</a></li><li>Switch to glass, ceramics, or stainless steel for food storage: plastics often contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that affect fertility. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/bpa-pollution-2645493129.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Learn more about the dangers of plastic here.</a></li><li>Ban plastic from the microwave. If you have a plastic splatter cover, use paper towel, parchment paper, or an upside-down plate instead.</li><li>Upgrade your cookware: non-stick may make life easier, but it is made with unsafe chemical compounds that seep into your food. Cast-iron and stainless steel are great alternatives.</li><li>Filter tap water. Glass filter pitchers are an inexpensive solution; if you want to invest you may opt for an under-the-sink filter.</li><li>Check your cleaning products—many mainstream products are full of unsafe chemicals. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check out our guide to safe cleaning products for more info</a>.</li></ul><p><strong>In the Bathroom </strong></p><ul> <li>Check the labels on your bathroom products: <em>fragrance-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free</em> and organic labels are all great signs. You can also scan the ingredients lists for red-flag chemicals such as: triclosan, parabens, and dibutyl phthalate. Use the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank">EWG Skin Deep database</a> to vet your personal products.</li><li>Ditch the vinyl shower curtain—that new shower curtain smell is chemical-off gassing. Choose a cotton or linen based curtain instead.</li><li>Banish air fresheners—use natural fresheners (an open window, baking soda, essential oils) instead.</li></ul><p><strong>Everywhere Else</strong></p><ul><li>Remove wall-to-wall carpet. If you've been considering wood or tile, here's your sign: many synthetic carpets can emit harmful chemicals for years. If you want a rug, choose wool or plant materials such as jute or sisal.</li><li>Prevent dust build-up. Dust can absorb chemicals in the air and keep them lingering in your home. Vacuum rugs and wipe furniture, trim, windowsills, fans, TVs, etc. Make sure to have a window open while you're cleaning!</li><li>Leave shoes at the door! When you wear your shoes throughout the house, you're tracking in all kinds of chemicals. If you like wearing shoes inside, consider a dedicated pair of "indoor shoes" or slippers.</li><li>Clean out your closet—use cedar chips or lavender sachets instead of mothballs, and use "green" dry-cleaning services over traditional methods. If that isn't possible, let the clothes air out outside or in your garage for a day before putting them back in your closet.</li><li>Say no to plastic bags!</li><li>We asked 22 endocrinologists what products they use - and steer clear of—in their homes. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/nontoxic-products-2648564261.html" target="_blank">Check out their responses here</a>.</li></ul>
Learn More<ul><li>For more information and action steps, be sure to check out <em>Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race</em> by EHS adjunct scientist Shanna Swan, PhD: <a href="https://www.shannaswan.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">available for purchase here.</a></li><li><a href="https://www.ehn.org/st/Subscribe_to_Above_The_Fold" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sign up for our Above the Fold Newsletter </a>to stay up to date about impacts on the environment and your health.</li></ul>
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