Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Young People in Polluted Cities at Greater Risk for Alzheimer's

Health + Wellness
Young People in Polluted Cities at Greater Risk for Alzheimer's

A study has found that living in cities with high air pollution puts children and young adults at risk for Alzheimer's and suicide, The University of Montana reported Friday.


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.
LumiNola / E+ / Getty Images

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.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Seattle-based Community Loaves uses home bakers to help those facing food insecurity during the pandemic. Sol de Zuasnabar Brebbia / Getty Images

By Lynn Freehill-Maye

The irony hit Katherine Kehrli, the associate dean of Seattle Culinary Academy, when one of the COVID-19 pandemic's successive waves of closures flattened restaurants: Many of her culinary students were themselves food insecure. She saw cooks, bakers, and chefs-in-training lose the often-multiple jobs that they needed simply to eat.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Storks in a nest near a construction crane. In the past 50 years, America's bird populations have fallen by a third. Maria Urban / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Tara Lohan

What does a biodiversity crisis sound like? You may need to strain your ears to hear it.

Read More Show Less
The Biden administration is temporarily using Obama-era calculations of the "social cost" of three greenhouse gas pollutants while calculating a more accurate estimate. Bloomberg Creative / Getty Images

The Biden administration announced it will use Obama-era calculations of the "social cost" of three greenhouse gas pollutants while an interagency working group calculates a more complete estimate, the White House announced Friday.

Read More Show Less
Posts about climate change will now automatically be labelled with an information banner that directs people to accurate climate science data at Facebook's Climate Science Information Center. Facebook

By Anne-Sophie Brändlin

Facebook has started tackling dangerous climate change myths and anti-environment propaganda that circulates among the platform's almost 3 billion monthly users.

Read More Show Less