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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

New Study Finds Air Pollution to Cause Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease

This Week

While air pollution was earlier known to pose several health risks like heart disease and lung cancer, scientists have now discovered that it could also lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to researchers at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health who conducted an analysis of 14 previous studies, long-term exposure to air containing high levels of pollution, also known as “fine particulate matter” was consistently associated with Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Countries that are exposed to air pollution levels below the current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard are more susceptible to such health risks.

Air pollution is caused by microscopic particulate matter that could include dirt, dust, soot, and smoke, and is created mainly by cars, coal fires, factories, and construction sites. Laos experienced some of its worst air pollution in 2023, with air quality shooting up to hazardous levels due to the practice of slash-and-burn agriculture in March and April.

Breathing in such toxic air can be detrimental to our health as particulate matter causing air pollution, especially the very tiny ones, “can get into the deep parts of your lungs — or even into your blood,” says Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States.

Professor Marc Weisskopf, one of the authors of the study said, “Everybody has to breathe, so everybody is exposed to this…The population-level effect could actually be quite large because the number of people exposed is massive.”

He added that regulator intervention is essential to protect people from the many risks associated with worsening air quality. The United States Environmental Protection Agency recommends that fine particle pollution in the air should be limited to 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air or less. But in order to further improve the air quality in the United States, the agency recommended bringing that limit down to 10 micrograms per cubic meter.

At 10 micrograms per cubic meter of fine particulate matter, the same health risks could affect a population, just at a slightly lower rate. “As far as we can tell, the lower you can go, the lower your risk is,” Professor Weisskopf said.

The academic informed that although scientists are hard at work to figure out new methods of cleaning our air as corporations continue to pollute it, the most efficient solution is implementing stricter regulations governing how much air pollution companies are legally allowed to create. The effects of not holding corporations accountable for their actions could be dire, as suggested by the dementia study.

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