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Poor Air Quality May Lead to Cognitive Decline

June 19, 2014
Environmental Protection

chimney smokeA new study by scientists at the University of California has produced evidence that fine particulates may affect cognitive function in older adults.

Taking information from a survey that began in 1986, researchers focused on 780 participants who were 55 years or older in the year 2000. They measured cognitive function by using maths and memory tests. The resulting figures were then compared to pollution levels, with people living where particulate levels exceeded 15 micrograms per cubic meter producing error scores one and a half times higher than those living in areas where levels didn’t go above 5 micrograms per cubic metre.

Co-author of the report Jennifer Ailshire feels that the results prove a connection. “The emerging evidence showing a link between air pollution and cognitive function suggests air pollution may harm the brain as well as the heart and lungs,” she said. Results were adjusted to take account of other factors that can influence cognitive function including education, employment, gender and marital status.

Earlier this month, scientists at the University of Rochester in the United States found that high air pollution levels produced brain abnormalities in laboratory mice, adding to the growing body of evidence that suggests air quality may play a part in autism and other neurological disorders.

You can view the abstract of the University of California study here