The higher level of air pollution in towns and cities is ageing the brains of over-50s by up to three years, research suggests. Scientists have found that exposure to higher levels of air pollution can lead to decreased brainpower in over-50s. Earlier research has also linked bad air to an increased risk of heart and breathing problems. In a study of almost 15,000 older adults, researchers at the US-based National Institute on Aging found fine air particulate matter may be an important environmental risk factor for reduced thought power.
Higher levels of air pollution in towns and cities are ageing the brains of over-50s by up to three years
If inhaled, it is small enough to deposit in the lungs and possibly the brain. Air pollution is already estimated to reduce the life expectancy of everyone in the UK by an average of seven to eight months, probably by affecting the heart and lungs. ‘As a result of age-related declines in health and functioning, older adults are particularly vulnerable to the hazards of exposure to unhealthy air,’ said Dr Jennifer Ailshire, from the Andrus Gerontology Center at the University of Southern California. ‘Air pollution has been linked to increased cardiovascular and respiratory problems, and even premature death, in older populations, and there is emerging evidence that exposure to particulate air pollution may have adverse effects on brain health and functioning as well.’
At risk: A study found that air pollution may be an important environmental risk factor for reduced thought power
Scientists were studying the impact of a minute air pollutant known as PM2.5 on the health of the participants, which is produced by vehicle exhaust emissions, as well as gas boilers and heavy industry. They found that for every additional 10 micrograms of the pollutant in a cubic metre of air - roughly the difference between inner London and rural Britain - the drop in participants’ brainpower was equivalent to three years of ageing. The association even remained after accounting for other factors, such as age, ethnicity, education, smoking behaviour, and respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.
Professor Frank Kelly, a professor of environmental health at King’s College London, said: ‘The average amount of this pollutant in London is around 13 to 15 mcg per cubic metre, while in some rural areas away from traffic it can be as low as three or four mcg. ‘The research shows that living somewhere with clean air means your will retain your brainpower for a longer period of time than if you live in an urban area. ‘Here is another study showing that the quality of the air that we breathe can not only affect for our heart and lungs, but our brains as well.’
Town vs country: Research shows that living somewhere with clean air means you will retain brain power for a longer period of time
The new research was presented at The Gerontological Society of America’s (GSA) 65th Annual Scientific Meeting in San Diego. Simon Birkett, Founder and Director of Clean Air in London, said: ‘This study is a shocking reminder that the health impacts of air pollution are much greater than the short-term effects of ‘visible’ air pollution that we worried about during the Great Smog of 1952. The Government must start warning people and giving them advice on protecting themselves and reducing pollution for themselves and others.’
Last year, a study found that higher levels of air pollution can increase the risk of having a heart attack for up to six hours after exposure. Even moderate levels of pollution from traffic carry an extra risk. Dr Krishnan Bhaskaran, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and colleagues used the UK National Air Quality Archive to investigate the levels of specific pollutants in the atmosphere at the times and places victims had their heart attacks.
Source: Daily Mail UK