News / Health

Air Pollution Linked to Cognitive Decline

Particulates may enter brain

Researchers found cognitive decline was more rapid in areas where air quality was worse.
Researchers found cognitive decline was more rapid in areas where air quality was worse.

Multimedia

Audio
Art Chimes

A new research paper links a specific kind of pollution to faster rates of cognitive decline.

Several years ago a massive survey of women called the Nurses' Health Study began collecting data on memory, thinking skills and other cognitive measures.

Jennifer Weuve of the Rush Institute of Healthy Aging in Chicago combined that data with information about air quality where the women lived.

In particular, she compared the level of particulate matter in the air with the change in cognitive scores over several years.

"The most important finding of our study is that women who were exposed to higher levels of ambient particulate matter over the long term experienced more decline in their cognitive scores over the four-year period that we followed them up."

If cognitive decline was more rapid where air quality was worse, how could the pollution be causing the loss of mental skills and function?

Weuve says the tiny particulates in the air might be getting into the brain directly. They're so small - 10 microns, one-thousandth of a millimeter - that they can evade the body's usual defenses and may be able to reach the brain either via the lungs or through the sinus passages in the head.

"Several studies have found that these particles - at least some of them - can actually get into the brain where they can cause inflammation and might even trigger some of those microscopic changes that are typical of Alzheimer's Disease."

Or it may be a more indirect effect. Numerous studies have identified an association between air pollution and cardiovascular disease, and the cognitive decline may be a result of damage to the blood supply.

For example, research published in the same journal as Weuve's paper, the Archives of Internal Medicine, found a higher risk of stroke on days when there were more particulates in the air. The fine particles were mainly from vehicle exhausts.

And a new study in the journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA, combined results of 34 studies and found a statistically significant association between heart attack risk and a wide range of air pollutants, excepting ozone.

The researchers say that as a risk factor for heart attack, air pollution isn't as dangerous as things like smoking and high blood pressure, but on the other hand, air pollution, especially for those in urban areas and industrialized countries, is an unavoidable part of daily life.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid